HIV prevention trial ends in disappointment

The highly anticipated study evaluating a vaginal gel to prevent the heterosexual spread of HIV shows the medication is not effective, the federal government announced Friday.

The gel, a microbicide called tenofovir, was tested for use by women who are uninfected with HIV to prevent getting the virus from a sexual partner. The early results of the study, begun in 2009 in Africa, looked highly promising. But analysis of recent data showed tenofovir gel is no more effective than a placebo gel. The study found a 6% rate of HIV infection among the study participants in the tenofovir and placebo gel groups.

In September, officials announced that the oral tenofovir, a tablet, was ineffective at preventing HIV transmission.

The outcome is sorely disappointing to public-health and HIV-prevention experts. However, the data will be analyzed further to try to identify factors that might have led to the poor results. The medication appears to be safe. Another arm of the prevention trial that combines oral tenofovir with another medication used to treat HIV infection will continue.


The study, called Oral Interventions to Control the Epidemic (VOICE), is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Tenofovir is made by Gilead Sciences Inc. of Foster City, Calif.

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