November 28, 2011
The National Institutes of Health NIAID announced Friday that it will discontinue the trial of a microbicidal vaginal gel used in the VOICE study. The study looked at the use of three forms of anti-retroviral treatment; a vaginal gel containing tenofovir, a tenofovir pill and Truvada which is a pill containing tenofovir and a booster drug. The results of the study found that there was no difference between the effects on women who used the gel and women who used a placebo. More than 5,000 women in three African countries took part in the study.
Results from the first round of trials with the gel were announced at the International AIDS Conference in 2010. It was lauded as being safe, convenient, and effective. Women in the study who used the gel were found to reduce their chances for contracting HIV by 39 percent. If they used it consistently, they reduced their chances by 54 percent. The scientist who lead the study were from the Center for the AIDS Program In South Africa (CAPRISA). Now participants (nearly 2,000 women) in the trial will be told to discontinue using the gel during their next clinical visit.
The news comes with great disappointment as this gel would have been an excellent line of defense for women against HIV. Women could have been empowered to protect their sexual health better by using the gel on themselves. This kind of prevention is especially critical for women who are in relationships where there is domestic violence and sex workers. Clearly, the potential impact of this kind of innovation is worth another try.
For more information about the discontinuation, click here.