Microbicides are one of the least known technologies for fighting HIV. Everyone knows that condoms can prevent AIDS. But who thinks about microbicides? Microbicides are products – gels, rings, or other suppositories that can be inserted into vagina or anus before sex to kills viruses on contact. No physical barrier is involved, and they can be applied hours before intercourse occurs.
It’s a shame they get so little attention, because they may be our secret weapon in slowing the spread of AIDS. I think that if we’re able to turn the tide in AIDS prevention, microbicides will be a major part of that victory. They’re less intrusive than condoms, but they could potentially be both cheaper and more effective.
Microbicides are currently under development for both vaginal and anal use. Most research efforts have been concentrated on vaginal microbicides, which I think is a shame. The International Partnership for Microbicides, for example, focuses only on vaginal microbicides. Condoms are dual purpose for heterosexuals, since they prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). For gay men, they only serve to prevent STIs; a microbicides would be a substantial improvement.
For more information on microbicides, the International Rectal Microbicides Advocates maintain a fascinating blog, and the International Partnership on Microbicides has produced a short video on the potential of microbicides.
Image: Positive Nation, UK