n Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine - Microbicides 2006 Conference : Conference Report




Sub-Saharan Africa is the region worst affected by the HIV pandemic, hosting over 64% of global infections. Women are disproportionately affected, with reports of almost 60% of infections among women between the ages of 15 and 49 years in sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa, 1 in 4 women are infected by the age of 25 years. Biological, socio-economic and cultural factors contribute to the vulnerability of women to HIV. The only effective method of HIV prevention, the male condom, is not in the control of women. It has therefore become increasingly clear that female-initiated methods or technologies need to be developed to allow women to have control over their sexual health, and HIV prevention in particular. <BR>Microbicides are one of the female-initiated technologies for prevention of HIV among women. The products could be formulated as gels, creams or suppositories. The concept is based on application of the product in the vagina prior to sexual intercourse to prevent HIV infection. There are several products in the pipeline, their development ranging from early stages to large-scale efficacy trials. <BR>The field of microbicides research is increasingly gaining momentum in South Africa and elsewhere. South Africa is host to five phase III clinical trials; four microbicide trials and one trial of vaginal diaphragms for HIV prevention. The majority of microbicides being tested are compounds called fusion inhibitors which act by preventing the binding of HIV to target cells in the vagina.


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