A ribbon is displayed at the 2000 World AIDS conference in South Africa. (Obed Zilwa / Associated…)
Call it an antiviral one-two punch. An HIV-fighting drug has been shown to be even more effective against genital herpes when it's applied as a gel, new research shows.
A study released this week by the journal Cell Host & Microbe that tested the gel on women in South Africa (where the risk of HIV and herpes is great) found that the anti-HIV/AIDS drug tenofovir reduced herpes infections by 51% and HIV infections by 39%.
In human tissue, the drug inhibits enzymes that the virus needs in order to replicate. But to protect against herpes, tenofovir needs to be topically applied to the vaginal canal -- taking a pill isn't enough. Participants in the study were asked to apply the gel topically before and after sex.
This would be the first time that an HIV-prevention method controlled by women -- and potentially without a man's knowledge -- has been shown to work, according to the Wall Street Journal.
No decision yet on whether tenofovir-maker Gilead Sciences Inc., which was involved in the study, will be aiming for the U.S. market with the gel, says the New York Times.
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