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Safety Monitors Halt Test Of Vaginal Gel To Prevent HIV Transmission

Aired 11/30/11 on KPBS News.

It's back to the drawing board for HIV prevention researchers, after a clinical trial of a vaginal gel was found to be ineffective.

Researchers are disappointed in the early termination of a clinic trial testing a vaginal gel to prevent H-I-V transmission. Safety monitors stopped the trial after the gel was was found to be no more than effective than a placebo.

The trial involves more than 5,000 women in sub-Saharan Africa. It's been trying to find out whether daily use of an antiretroviral based vaginal gel would protect women against HIV.

An earlier study found there were 39 percent fewer HIV infections among women who used the gel, compared to those who used a placebo.

UC San Diego researcher Jim Zians said these kinds of disparities happen occasionally.

"I mean there are complete studies in research that can't be replicated later," Zians pointed out. "So to actually find a discrepancy during the trials of a study is actually very fortunate."

Researchers say they need to review all of the data before they can determine why the gel didn't work.

Next year, a clinical trial will test whether an antiretroviral-based vaginal ring can protect women from becoming infected with HIV. Unlike a vaginal gel, which has to be applied daily, the ring can stay in place for weeks at a time.

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