In a huge win for women’s health, a new study published today found that a gel applied by women before and after sex slashed the chance of acquiring the AIDS virus by 39% and the genital herpes virus by 51%.
From Akimbo, the blog of the International Women’s Health Coalition:
The Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) has announced that a microbicide it has been testing has shown to be 39% effective in prevention the transmission of HIV to female receptive partners. The microbicide gel contains the drug tenofovir, an antiretroviral drug used widely in the treatment of HIV, and is designed to be used vaginally both before and after penile-vaginal penetration.
Woh. This is a huge deal because of how few woman-controlled methods of HIV prevention really exist: prior to this most recent development, female condoms were really our only option. Here on Feministing, we’ve posted before about some of the awesome attributes of the female condom, as well as some of its drawbacks. But no matter your views of that particular method, I think we can all agree that it’s pretty amazing to have more alternatives for safer sex.
Though this gel is obviously not yet something that could be used by itself to afford total protection, (at 39% and 51% effective against HIV and herpes, respectively, it’s hardly a sure thing), its current success is very promising and bodes well for future versions of the technology. The development of an even more successful microbicide gel could mean that further down the line, women could have the option to protect themselves from HIV without needing a barrier method at all, and thus without having to negotiate condom usage with a partner. This is all kinds of awesome for all kinds of different reasons, one being that a major factor in the recent feminization of the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been that too often, violence, coercion, economic dependency, and other factors make it difficult to for women to negotiate condom use on their own terms. Just another reason why I’m psyched about this new technology.