Limit Herpes With New Vaginal Gel

Researchers at the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa have found that a vaginal gel meant to protect women against HIV can also serve to limit the spread of herpes infections. Study author Dr. Leila Mansoon explained at a press briefing that while the research team hadn't meant to study the effects on the gel on HSV-2 (herpes), it's just something that came up during the course of their work. Mansoon commented that herpes is the most common STD infection and that there is as yet, no cure for the condition.

Halved Risk

During an analysis of the study results, the researchers discovered that the gel cut the risk for herpes in half. Herpes is a virus that causes genital warts. This discovery led to a great deal of excitement among the researchers. The study results were presented at the 18th International Conference on HIV/AIDS held this year in Vienna, Austria.

Further studies will need to be done to confirm these findings. Meantime, there is disagreement among the experts as to whether this high level of protection against herpes was an additional justification to begin using the gel right away. The gel offers women some protection against HIV and herpes in the case where a partner refuses to wear a condom during sex.

Limited Supply

The new vaginal gel contains the AIDS drug known as Tenofovir which is known to reduce the risk for HIV contraction by 50% after a year of use, and to a slightly less significant 39% after longer use (two and a half years). The gel remains in limited supply since it was created to be used for research purposes only, such as the study mentioned here. So far, the gel has been tested on 889 women in the Durban area. The study subjects are all heterosexual.

Half of the study participants were given the microbicide gel while the other half received a placebo in vaginal gel form. The women were instructed to use the gel 12 hours before engaging in intercourse and as close as possible to 12 hours after intercourse had occurred. By the end of the study, 38 women in the microbicide group were found to have HIV, while 60 of the participants using the placebo had contracted the virus.

The only noticeable side effect of the gel seems to be some mild diarrhea. Women found the gel easy to apply and reported that their partners were not bothered by its use. An overwhelming 99% of the women reported they would be delighted to use the gel if assured it could prevent HIV.