HIV Prevention: towards the medicalisation of sex?

Published: November 25, 2010

2010 will be a year to remember for the field of HIV prevention. After decades of interventions with limited results (with the exception of circumcision and the prevention of mother to child HIV transmission), two clinical studies are raising the hope that the HIV epidemic can be tamed.

In July, the CAPRISA team (based in South Africa) reported that a vaginal gel containing the anti HIV drug tenofovir could reduce the risk of HIV infection by 39%. This was the first proof of concept that a microbicide could potentially reduce the risk of HIV infection whilst offering women an HIV prevention tool that they could control.

In November of the same year, the iPrEx study conducted on a population at high-risk of infection showed that taking the anti HIV Drug Truvada reduced the risk of contracting the virus by an average of 44 percent.

Both studies are hailed as a milestone and landmark in the history of HIV prevention and expectations are high that HIV prevention will finally mean more than the ABC of ‘Abstinence, condom and faithfulness’. But despite the hope, neither approach will immediately translate into marketable products as there are a number of questions that needs answering before microbicide and PrEP are available to the public.

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