New Lines of Attack in H.I.V. Prevention

Published: November 8, 2010

The hottest news in AIDS in the last year was the partial success in a South African clinical trial of a microbicide — a gel women can put in their vaginas to kill the virus before it can infect them.

The whole field of protection before sex is “red-hot cool right now,” said Sharon L. Hillier, a gynecology professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s medical school and principal investigator of the Microbicide Trials Network. “People are really energized.”

Although the gel offered only about 40 percent protection against the virus, it was the first form of protection that women could use without men knowing, which is crucial because so many men around the world absolutely refuse — sometimes violently — to wear condoms when having sex with their wives or girlfriends.

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