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The study, which was carried out by the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa, found that the gel (which contains the drug tenofovir) reduced the rate of infection in 889 women in South Africa by approximately 50% after one year. Scientists are hoping that this "vagina gel" (as the BBC calls it, which I find spectacularly gross — but not because of the "vagina" part, I'd think "dick gel" was just as icky) could be an alternative for women whose partner's refuse to wear a condom — a big step forward for women when it comes to protecting their own sexual health independent of men. (Previously, their only option seemed to be the horror-movie inspired RapeX condom.)
This is all great, of course. But unfortunately this news also contains a grim reminder of just how bad the HIV/AIDS epidemic is in Africa:
After 30 months, 98 women became infected with HIV - 38 in the group that got tenofovir in the gel and 60 in the group that got placebos.
In one year, out of a group of 899, ninety-eight women got infected with HIV. And some of those women were taking active steps to reduce their chances! It's gobsmacking to really think about how high those numbers are. So yes, this microbial gel is a fantastic advancement, but it's hard not to feel like it's just a drop in the ocean. (Then again, a drop is better than no drop. But let's always keep reaching, yes?)