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New HIV prevention control trial proves different

SABC
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Results of a new trial in HIV prevention control in women, disproves Tenofovir gel trial conducted by Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa).

The rate of new HIV infections among young women in sub-saharan Africa remains high as research into women initiated HIV prevention mechanisms continues. A new trial of Tenofovir gel that previously showed some effect against HIV, has shown different results.

The Follow-on Consortium for Tenofovir Studies or Facts trial, found that the gel only partially protects women against HIV, if it is used regularly and properly.

The 2010 Caprisa 004 study was conducted only in two rural parts of KwaZulu-Natal. It showed that HIV infection was reduced by close to 40% in women who used Tenofovir gel.

The 2013 Voice trial, conducted in many African countries, revealed no difference in HIV infection rates between women who used Tenofovir gel and the placebo gel. Now in 2015, the Facts trial, conducted at sites across South Africa, has shown that the gel only partially protects women against HIV.

Head of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, responsible for the trial, Professor Helen Rees, says when they looked more closely at the data and at the women before and after sex, in that sub-group there was an indication there was an indication that the gel did work. In such a group, there was an indication of protection to about a 50% level.

Professor Quaraisha Abdool-Karim from Caprisa headed the 2010 study and says what the latest Facts results reveal, is that the benefits of the gel come from consistent use, and not when it is used some-of-the-time.

According to Abdool-Karim, even though 60% of the women used it, it was not enough to offer them protection.

If you use the product in 60% of your sexual encounters, it’s the same like condom use. If you use the condom occasionally, the times that you don’t use it you put yourself at risk.

Abdool-Karim continues: “If you use the product in 60% of your sexual encounters, it’s the same like condom use. If you use the condom occasionally, the times that you don’t use it you put yourself at risk. The same applies with the gel in the Facts study.”

Rees says of the women who used Tenofovir gel in the Facts trial, 50 to 60% managed to protect their sexual acts. The average age of the 2 000 women in the Facts trial was 23-years-old. Most were unemployed, single and lived at home, which made sexual privacy difficult, forcing them to have sex outside their homes.

Rees says there are two other options that are currently being tested, the vaginal ring and the injection.

Meanwhile, Abdool-Karim says the results of the Facts trial reveal that there is still work to be done on which HIV prevention tool would be the right fit for women across all age groups.

Both Rees and Abdool-Karim agree that research must continue to allow as many women as possible to use as many HIV prevention methods as possible, that will allow them to exercise their right to be HIV free.

PUBLISHED: Tuesday 3 March 2015 20:54
SABC © 2015

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