HIV Gel That Cuts Herpes Risk in Half in the Works

October 21, 2011  |  

There is good news on the sexual health front today. A vaginal gel that is known to reduce women’s risk of AIDS infection is even more effective in decreasing genital herpes.

The new study conducted by European researchers of a microbicide gel showed a 39 percent reduction in HIV infections, and unexpectedly that herpes risk was lowered by 51 percent as well. Although the gel was originally developed to fight AIDS in Africa, this new finding means the treatment could be useful to fight both diseases in the U.S. as well, where an estimated 48 percent of black women have herpes.

“This could be incredibly helpful,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, a herpes expert from the University of Washington’s medical school. “Protection that a woman can control is the holy grail in this field. It’s hard for me to believe that something that protects against both HIV and herpes wouldn’t be appealing to a lot of young American women.”

It would be hard for me to believe that too, however we may never have the chance to use the gel. An executive at Gilead, the company that makes tenofovir, the anti-AIDS drug that is the gel’s active ingredient, said the company is debating whether to spend the millions of dollars needed to get the gel approved in the American market. If they do go ahead, it would be at least three to four years before the company could even submit data to the Food and Drug Administration. Sigh.

No matter how many years it takes, it should be criminal for the company to even debate not spending the money to bring the gel to the U.S. where it is clearly needed.  Safety and acceptability tests for the gel were done in several countries including the United States, and American heterosexual couples did not find the gel unpleasant; nor did South African couples.

As far more people suffer from herpes than HIV — as many as 20% of sexually active adults — the FDA and Gilead need to move forward on bringing this product to the American market.

What do you think about this new prevention method? Would it be useful for women in the United States?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • curt

    (U.S. as well, where an estimated 48 percent of black women have herpes) really I wonder how many white women have herpes oh can we say 65 percent or more.

  • BabyT

    I would think that it WOULD Be useful, but I am a bit confused. Are they implying that people with the herpes virus would be able to defeat it by using this gel?? Or does it only help control outbreaks? This I think would be extremely informal.