Microbicides 2008, an international conference to discuss current research on microbicides, is happening this week in New Delhi, India. Microbicides are a hot topic in global HIV/AIDS prevention research, as they represent a woman-controlled, non-barrier method that do not require a partner’s cooperation.
An early report from the conference notes that tenofovir gel, a vaginal microbicide that incorporates an antiretroviral drug (such as those used in HIV treatment), has passed safety trials for daily use. The next step in research will be to study whether this gel is effective in reducing HIV infection. Another release from the conference provides preliminary safety findings on a rectal microbicide using an investigational drug.
One recent setback in microbicide research was the three-year Carraguard trial, which demonstrated the safety of the seaweed-derived product, but found that it did not significantly reduce HIV infection risk. However, it’s not unusual for drug research to suffer many disappointing trials before hitting on a product that truly works. The Population Council’s Peter Donaldson noted, “The trial has contributed significantly to the field’s body of knowledge regarding product development, trial design, and women’s and their partners’ willingness to use a vaginal gel consistently.”