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Researchers are closing in on a breakthrough microbicide gel to help prevent HIV infection in women, scientists said on Monday, but a lack of funding by major pharmaceutical companies is hampering research.
For those of you who won't know, microbicides are gels or creams, usually inserted vaginally, that help prevent sexually transmitted infections. The chief target of current microbicide research is to prevent HIV infections.
Microbicides are the ugly stepchild of already poor funding for HIV medications. That's because the people they'll help the most are women in third world countries who have extremely patriarchal marriage arrangements (read: most of Africa and India). Many men in these cultures make regular visits to the local prostitute, where they contract HIV and bring it home to their wives, who pass it on to their children. Because condom use is taboo (especially women requesting that condom use), women have little ability to protect themselves from infection.
The development of a microbicide for HIV would give these women power to protect themselves and their children. But a successful anti-microbial agent hasn't been developed yet, although a few are in the final stages of clinical trials.
Microbicides would also be significantly cheaper than treatment with HIV medications, which people in third world countries have essentially zero access to.