Tuesday, March 10, 2009

happy national women and girls HIV/AIDS awareness day!

There are actually two exciting things being recognized today. First off, today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Today is also National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. I was really torn about what to discuss on the blog on this dually important day but in the end, I stuck with what I do--HIV/AIDS work. However, feel free to hug your local Planned Parenthood employee today!

A lot of times you hear that women are becoming more and more at risk for HIV, not just in the US but worldwide. In 2005, 27% of all HIV/AIDS cases were women. All preliminary research is showing that this number is increasing at an alarming rate. Even worse than that is how prevalent the virus is among women of color. Of all women with HIV/AIDS, black women were disproportionately effected. The rate of AIDS diagnosis for black women was approximately 23 times the rate for white women and 4 times the rate for Hispanic women. The most common form of transmission for all women is high-risk heterosexual sex. The sad thing is that these women can protect themselves by using condoms. However, especially in the developing world and particularly with male-dominant cultures, the use of condoms are not up to the women and they end up putting their health and, ultimately, their fate in a partner's hands.

However, there is hope! For those women who find it impossible to negotiate condom use with a partner, there will be a solution (hopefully soon). That solution is microbicides.

Long time readers of this blog might remember that I've talked about this issue before (in a post about Obama's support for the Microbicide Development Act). Microbicides have been in development for a while. Most of the research is going on in other parts of the world. This is mostly due to the lack of funding, although Bill Gates' support (and money) has definitely been making a difference in the last few years.

A microbicide is a gel that is applied topically to the skin of the vagina or anus that blocks the virus from infecting the body. Even a microbicide that is 25% effective would be helpful in reducing the spread of HIV among women. Any protection is better than no protection. Obviously the ideal microbicide would be more effective than that and could work as a contraceptive as well. Also, the ideal gel would be discreet and not interfere with intercourse in a negative way (ie. you shouldn't feel it nor should it diminish sexual pleasure).

Within the past few weeks there has been a great advancement. Previous clinical trials (including one testing the effectiveness of lemon juice as a microbicide) have thus far produced negative results (by the way, lemon juice should never be applied to one's genitals). However, the results of one clinical trial reported last week indicates that a combination of two microbicides proved effective in reducing HIV infection. It's effectiveness was 30% This is an excellent start.

Additionally, another study found that a microbicide devised from KY jelly was effective in blocking SIV in primates (SIV is often considered the predecessor to HIV as it is the primate equivalent to the virus). This was however a small trial (I think maybe 5 monkeys were tested). A larger sample would need to be used. Still, the results are promising.

The search for an HIV vaccine has been completely fruitless so there is a lot of hope for microbicides. However, research that includes clinical trials take several years so it may be a while before an effective microbicide is developed and mass-produced.  While the search for a microbicide has taken over a decade thus far, current research shows that an effective microbicide is imminent.

And those of us in the HIV world are waiting with bated breath.


GrannyGrump said...

Submitted for your appreciation -- a list of abortion providers and some of their accomplishments!

anOCgirl said...

granny: i LOVE how there are just two sentences about abortion in this post yet that's what you choose to comment on. just so you know, no anti-choice crap on a blog is going to persuade me to join your side.