ColorLines: Microbicides Could Forever Change HIV for Black Women

Akiba Solomon says that researchers are one step closer to an HIV-prevention method that women can use -- strictly on their terms.

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Microbicides may help black women fight HIV.

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If you're not directly involved in HIV/AIDS research, prevention or treatment, the word microbicide probably means as much to you as, say, integrase inhibitor S/GSK1349572. (For the record, that's an anti-HIV drug that's in clinical trials.) But, as ColorLines recently reported, microbicide researchers have brought us one step closer to an HIV prevention method that women can use -- strictly on their terms. It's potentially revolutionary.

Scientists have been trying out different forms of microbicides for some 15 years. Those tests, which were publicly funded for the most part, have failed to stop HIV transmission. But at last summer's International AIDS Conference, South African researchers unveiled a clear, odorless, flavorless gel form of the HIV-fighting drug tenofovir that women can insert into their vaginas with a plastic applicator. In their multi-year trial of nearly 900 sexually active South African teens and women ages 18 to 40, those who used the gel 12 hours before and after sex reduced their risk of contracting HIV by up to 54 percent. (The gel also reduced participants' risk of contracting herpes by 51 percent; that's important because having herpes doubles the risk of contracting HIV.) If a second trial is successful, microbicides could hit the global market as soon as 2014. 

That's a scientific victory that's been hailed as a potential turning point in the global epidemic, but it will also be of particular importance to black folks in the United States, who make up nearly half of all new HIV infections but only 13 percent of the population. And black women -- who are most often infected through sex with men -- are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than white women.

Read more at ColorLines.