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Anti-HIV gel proven safe, tolerable for women
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A gel using anti-HIV drug tenofovir to shield women from AIDS has been proven safe for daily use and acceptable to women, study findings showed Tuesday.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the University of Pittsburgh to test the gel's safety, involved 200 sexually active HIV-negative women aging from 19 to 50, of whom 64 percent were married.

"The gel is safe to use, and well tolerated by HIV-negative women. That's a key message in our findings," said Craig Hoesley, one of the authors of the Phase II trial report. "This sets the stage for larger studies to see if tenofovir can prevent HIV infection."

Tenofovir, the active ingredient in the gel, is an antiviral drug called nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitor, which acts against HIV by blocking the virus' ability to replicate and grow inside the body.

Women showed great tolerance to the gel, which is a significant boost to HIV and AIDS prevention efforts focusing on next-generation microbicides to reduce infection rates, researchers said.

Eighty percent of the women instructed to use the gel within two hours before sex said they followed instructions, and 83 percent instructed to use the gel daily said they had done so in the week prior. If the gel were proven helpful to prevent HIV infection, more than 90 percent of participants said they would seriously consider using it to protect their sexual health.

Women, who are physically more at risk from AIDS infection than men, currently protect themselves mainly by relying on male consent to wear a condom.

(Xinhua News Agency February 27, 2008)

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