Cream to prevent HIV safe, but not effective: study

Mon Feb 18, 2008 2:33pm EST
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A cream designed to protect women from the AIDS virus did not prevent infection, but it was safe, raising hopes that it might be combined with drugs or other compounds to work better, researchers said on Monday.

The product, called Carraguard, is the first HIV cream to be tested in advanced trials in women and shown to be safe.

"We are disappointed that this trial did not show Carraguard to be effective; nonetheless the completion of this trial is a milestone in HIV prevention research," said Peter Donaldson, president of the Population Council, which sponsored the trial.

"The trial has contributed significantly to the field's body of knowledge regarding product development, trial design, and women's and their partners' willingness to use a vaginal gel consistently."

Microbicides are products, such as gels or creams, that could be applied vaginally or anally to prevent transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.

So far, attempts to create a microbicide have failed.

The Carraguard trial began in March 2004 and involved 6,202 women in South Africa. Half got Carraguard, a tasteless, odorless gel made out of seaweed, and half got placebos.

All the women got counseling on how to prevent HIV and were also given condoms.

After three years 134 women using Carraguard became infected and 151 women given the placebo did. This difference was not statistically significant, the researchers said.   Continued...

<p>A man walks past a poster at a conceptual art exhibition about HIV/AIDS in Tehran December 2, 2007. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl</p>