Scientists succeed in human trials of HIV microbicide in Zimbabwe

Scientists have had the first successful human trials on a gel-PRO 2000 microbicide intended to prevent HIV infections in women in Zimbabwe, local media New Ziana reported on Monday.
Zimbabwe's principal investigator with the University of Zimbabwe working in collaboration with the University of California San Francisco and Professor Mike Chirenje said research proved that PRO 2000 microbicide is 30 percent effective, Xinhua reported.
"Ideally, we would have wanted a 100 percent effectiveness. But this is a starting point for us considering that there are several researches on other gels done in the past and none of them proved such effectiveness," Chirenje said during a presentation of trial results.
The other microbicide BufferGel, which was tried concurrently with PRO 2000, however failed to protect women from contracting HIV from positive partners.
Microbicides are substances intended to prevent the transmission of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections when applied inside a woman's private parts. They come as gels, creams or a film. When applied to the private parts, microbicides inhibits the virus from entering the human body.
The microbicide research conducted between 2005 and 2008 involved 3,099 women drawn from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and the United States.
In Zimbabwe, the trials were conducted at Spilhaus in Harare and Seke South Clinic in Chitungwiza and 484 women participated.
"A safe and effective microbicide could protect women and substantially reduce new HIV infections here in Zimbabwe and globally. Although we need additional evidence to determine with greater certainty whether PRO 2000 is effective for preventing HIV, the results of this study represent a significant step forward for HIV prevention research," Chirenje said.
He said as a way forward, a separate clinical study is currently testing PRO 2000 on a larger scale and both results would be compared.
"While these results are not conclusive, they provide a glimmer of hope to millions of women at risk for HIV, especially young women in Africa. These findings provide the first signal that a microbicide gel may be able to protect women from HIV infection," said Dr Abdool Karim who led the study in the four countries.
The study was necessitated by the fact that in Zimbabwe, women comprise 54 percent of all people living with HIV yet they have limited powers to negotiate for safer intercourse.



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