Research into anal microbicides to protect against HIV infection is finally under way at major research centers around the world, said scientists attending the Microbicides 2004 Conference held in London last week, Positive Nation reports. An entire day at the conference was devoted to discussing rectal microbicides. Research on several products to be used by women to prevent vaginal HIV infection is already under way, with some products in human trials, but little research has been done to see if the same products or others are effective in preventing transmission of HIV during anal sex. Anal sex is the cause of almost all sexually transmitted HIV infections among gay men.
The microbicide products currently being examined include gels that produce a physical barrier to HIV as well as antiretroviral medications designed to target HIV as it tries to infect rectal cells. Research into rectal microbicides currently is no further advanced than animal studies, but scientists hope that the projects pick up speed as results begin to be reported from the human vaginal microbicide studies under way. A vaginal HIV microbicide is expected by 2010 at the earliest, and the first products to hit the market will likely be less than 100% effective, researchers say.