Vaginal gel holds promise against HIV after sex (Thinkstock Photos/Getty Images)
In what can be termed as a significant discovery in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention, a vaginal gel has been developed that, if applied as long as three hours after sex, can protect monkeys from infection.
The gel has raltegravir, an FDA-approved anti-retroviral drug.
Three hours before it was inserted, the monkeys were given vaginal washes of simian HIV to simulate sex with an infected monkey.
In a separate trial, only one of three monkeys given a similar gel 30 minutes before exposure to the virus became infected.
"If it works in humans, such a gel would be particularly useful in countries where women have little protection against domestic violence or rape," Walid Heneine, lead researcher at the National Centre for Infectious Disease of the Centers for Disease Control, was quoted as saying in a New York Times report.
Women can apply it surreptitiously after a partner falls asleep or a clinic could administer it after a rape, the researchers noted.
But if the technique does move into human trials, scientists added, it is more likely that women would be asked to try to use it both before and after sex.
The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
"If the technique works in humans, it could be used for HIV prevention like Plan B or the morning-after pill for contraception," Sharon L. Hillier, a professor of obstetrics at University of Pittsburgh, was quoted as saying.