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article imageA New Gel Offers Hope against AIDS but the Battle Continues

By Saikat Basu     Feb 10, 2009 in Health
The fight against AIDS is far from over but a new gel could offer a new way to block the virus. In a related development, two studies cast doubts over a drug therapy.
A new protective gel has emerged as a promising candidate in our war against AIDS. The findings were presented at the Conference on Retroviruses in Montreal, Canada recently. The gel called β€˜PRO 2000’ could do something to dispel the notion that we are losing ground in the war against AIDS.
Dr. Salim Abdool Karim of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa and colleagues tested the gel made by Massachusetts-based Indevus Pharmaceuticals. There research involved nearly 3,000 women as test subjects. There objective was to find a microbicide that could act as the first line of defence against the virus when a partner refuses to use a condom. The supplementary purpose was also to show that gels are safe as previous studies had claimed that gels in fact increase the risk of infection.
The results showed that PRO 2000 reduced the rate of infection by about a third. Dr Karim said during the presentation that –
β€œ"We do not regard it as a definitive conclusion that PRO 2000 is a microbicide but we certainly view it as very promising."
In a related development, two other studies have shown that men who take drug cocktails in a treatment known as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy or HAART can still excrete the virus in their semen.
Prameet Sheth of the University of Toronto in Canada and Anne-Genevieve Marcelin of the Pitie-Salpetriere in Paris in two parallel studies both found that men whose blood was tested to be HIV free had some percentage in their semen.
The explanation is that the drug therapy does not rid the blood completely of the virus but only subsides it very low indiscernible levels. The low level suppresses the virus and stops it from attacking the immune system, thus keeping the patients healthy. It is still unclear as to why the virus could be detected in the semen but not in blood.
The AIDS virus infects 33 million people worldwide and has already claimed 25 million lives. The developments though small are gradually adding some substance to the build up against the pandemic killer.
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