- DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters)
- Researchers hoping to find a way for women to protect themselves from
AIDS infection were disappointed to report on Wednesday that tests showed
one product worsened the risk.
- The product, a spermicide called nonoxynol-9, did not
protect women in trials in Benin, Ivory Coast, Thailand and South Africa
from infection with HIV, a team of United Nations-sponsored researchers
- ``We were dismayed to find out that the group using the
N-9 gel had a higher rate of HIV infection than the group using a placebo,''
Dr Joseph Perriens, who heads the UNAIDS microbicide effort, told the 13th
International AIDS Conference.
- He said the active group had 59 infections, while a second
group using a dummy gel had 41.
- ``We were extremely disappointed,'' Lut van Damme, a
researcher at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, told
a news conference.
- She said researchers may be forced to suspend other trials
involving the product, marketed under the trade name Advantage S by U.S.-based
Columbia Laboratories Inc.
- ``The long-term safety of nonoxynol-9 as a family planning
method may have to be re-evaluated,'' she said.
- Howard Levine, director of research at Columbia Laboratories,
said it was wrong to call the product unsafe.
- ``If we take it one step further and scare women into
thinking nonoxynol-9 is dangerous ... in a single use per day, we are doing
a disservice to women,'' he said.
- Activists have been clamoring for the development of
a microbicide -- a gel or cream sometimes described as an ''invisible condom''
or a ``safegel'' that women and men could use to protect themselves not
only from HIV, but from other sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis
- ``A microbicide can allow women to protect themselves
and their partners from infection without necessarily having to secure
male cooperation,'' Awa Coll-Seck, director of policy, strategy and research
for UNAIDS, said.
- Van Damme said although the trials may spell the end
of nonoxynol-9 as a potential microbicide, they did show that women --
in this case prostitutes at high risk of HIV infection -- would use such
- Money From Gates Foundation
- One possible reason for the findings was that the women
who used the spermicide had more lesions than the women who did not, Van
- ``If you use nonoxynol-9 (to protect from HIV), you are
probably wasting your money. You may possibly be wasting your life,'' Perriens
said. But, he added: ``There is nothing in this trial to suggest you should
stop using it as a spermicide.''
- UNAIDS said it was pressing for the development of other
- ``We know that there are more products to come,'' Perriens
said. ``This shouldn't be the end of the field ... One of the things holding
up development, increasingly, is a lack of private sector interest in this
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it would try
to help with a $25 million grant for microbicide research.
- The money, part of $90 million in grants the foundation
announced on Wednesday, will go to the CONRAD Consortium for Industrial
Collaboration in Contraceptive Research (CICCR), a program at the Eastern
Virginia Medical School.
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