New Gel Offers Hope of Shielding Women From HIV Infection

An encouraging development in the long fight against AIDS: Researchers announced today that a new gel helps protect against HIV infection in monkeys. That's even if it's applied after sex, as long as it's within three hours. And it's got the potential to protect women.

That's according to the New York Times, which reports that the gel is made with the antiretroviral drug raltegravir. Now, this particular formula hasn't been tested on humans yet, and one of the six macaques given the gel was infected anyway, so the effectiveness isn't 100 percent. But if it pans out, the gel "could be used for H.I.V. prevention like Plan B or the morning-after pill for contraception," according to an expert.

The approach—also known as "microbicide" treatments—has shown promise in previous trials, MSNBC reports, but those gels had to be used too consistently for too long to be really effective.

In a particularly sobering explanation, the Times notes that, "such a gel would be particularly useful in countries where women have little protection against domestic violence or rape, because they could apply it surreptitiously after a partner fell asleep or a clinic could administer it after a rape."