Magazine article African Business

Invisible Condom an Asset to Africa's Women. (Health)

Magazine article African Business

Invisible Condom an Asset to Africa's Women. (Health)

Article excerpt

A gel formula condom that provides women with an invisible barrier against viral infection has been hailed as 'the best preventative measure against HIV yet'.

Unveiled at the July Barcelona Aids conference, the 'can't see condom, developed by scientists at the University of Quebec in Canada promises to become a major asset in sub-Saharan Africa where millions of women, particularly in rural areas, have no say in the sexual behaviour of their partners. As a consequence, condom campaigns have met with limited success in these regions.

The gel formulation contains sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) which, when applied to the vaginal area, forms not only a physical barrier, but also a chemical buffer between the pathogens and cells targeted by the HIV virus. The gel is inserted by use of a special applicator.

Of greatest significance to women is the fact that their partners would be unaware of the presence of the protective sheath, helping to reduce the high incidence of sex-related violence against women, particularly in the poorer rural areas.

In another development, a three year test involving 16,000 Thai volunteers aged between 20 and 30 is to be launched to evaluate the HIV vaccine Alvac. In the world's biggest Aids vaccine trial, the French pharmaceutical giant, Aventis, and the Thai government hope to prove the efficacy of the treatment and whether or not it can stay a step ahead of the rapidly mutating HIV virus.

It is the first time a government has offered co-operation of this kind to a drug company. …

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