Eastern Virginia Medical School has received a $24 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development to test whether an experimental vaginal microbicide is effective in preventing HIV infections and other sexually transmitted diseases, the Virginian-Pilot reports. The researchers at the university's contraceptive and research development program will conduct a Phase III trial to determine whether the gel-like product, called Ushercell, can prevent HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia infections in 2,500 women in India, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Uganda. The study begins in June and ends next summer. If the trial goes well, Ushercell could receive FDA approval by 2010.
"People don't use condoms all the time," lead researcher Henry L. Gabelnick told the Virginian-Pilot, "so we need something else for women to use. We don't believe it will wipe out the disease, but if you can get any reduction of transmission, then you have an impact in slowing down this epidemic."