A study published recently addressed the effectiveness of a newly developed gel meant to combat HIV. This gel, created through the efforts of the South African AIDS research program CAPRISA, is a form of anti-retroviral therapy that uses the drug tenofovir to prevent the virus from advancing into AIDS.
The development of this new preventative treatment has serious implications on the sexual health of women. Providing females with new alternatives, the gel allows women to actively participate in safeguarding their health in ways that are otherwise limited by present methods to curtail HIV transmission, such as male condoms and circumcision.
Applied vaginally 12 hours before and then 12 hours after sexual intercourse the gel has a 39 percent success rate. Those that commit to using the gel, as directed at least 80 percent of the time, increase their rate of success to 54 percent. Additionally, the gel cuts risks of genital herpes infection by 51 percent. This too is a major benefit as women who have herpes are twice as likely to be infected with HIV.
This gel is projected to substantially decrease future HIV transmission rates. As a researcher for the gel explained, “Without this gel, for every 100 women we may see 10 women being infected in a year. With this gel, we would see only six women being infected.”
As for its direct impact on the rights of women, Vuyiseka Dubula of South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign stated, “This is a hope we have been waiting for. When women want to engage in sex, we don’t want to spend the time negotiating safety. Even if we’re someone who does have power in our relationships, we still don’t have the tools to use.”