More on Microbicides
On this page, you will find:
- Would a microbicide eliminate the need for condoms?
- Would a microbicide protect against all STIs?
- What if a women wants to get pregnant?
- Would microbicides be safe?
- Would men benefit from microbicides as well?
- Who is working on microbicides research and development?
- Why do we need microbicides if we will eventually have an HIV-vaccine?
Would a microbicide eliminate the need for condoms?
No. When used consistently and correctly, male or female condoms are likely to provide better protection against HIV and STIs than microbicides, so they will still be the preferred option. But for people who cannot or will not use condoms, and particularly for women whose partners refuse condoms, using microbicides can save lives and have a substantial impact on the HIV epidemic. In fact, researchers developed a mathematical model that shows that if even a small proportion of women in lower income countries used a 60% efficacious microbicide in half the sexual encounters where condoms are not used, 2.5 million HIV infections could be averted over 3 years.
Article: Shifts in condom use following microbicides introduction: should we be concerned? AIDS (Volume 17:1227-1237), May 23, 2002
Would a microbicide protect against all sexually transmitted infections?
Although protection against HIV is the primary goal, we hope that microbicides that could protect against other STIs as well as HIV might also become available in the future. Since STIs are caused by different pathogens (some viral, some bacterial), a microbicide that works against one STI pathogen would not necessarily protect against another.
What if a woman wants to get pregnant?
Women need to have access to microbicides that can prevent pregnancy and microbicides that allow pregnancy. Contraceptive microbicides could provide both pregnancy and STI prevention to women wishing to meet both needs with one product. The candidates furthest advanced in trials right now are all non-contraceptive. But it is possible, if one of them proves effective, that a contraceptive component could be added.
Would microbicides be safe?
Any new product must go through rigorous safety testing before becoming available to the public. Women’s health activists and researchers are working closely together to ensure that the testing of microbicides is thorough and ethical. Fortunately many of the substances under investigation are commonly used in drugs that are already available.
Would men benefit from microbicides as well?
Although it is possible that microbicides could protect HIV positive women’s partners, it is also possible that they will not. Trials with serodiscordant couples will need to take place in order to test this. It may also be possible to develop microbicides that can be used rectally, but the safety and effectiveness of microbicides for rectal use must be established separately. Rectal safety studies of some potential microbicides have started. More on microbicides and men...
Who is working on microbicide research and development?
Virtually all microbicides research to date has been conducted by non-profit and academic institutions or small biotech companies. Studies are funded by charitable foundations and government grants. These public funds also support basic science, social and behavioural research, and clinical trial infrastructure that contribute to microbicides research and development. Large pharmaceutical companies have not invested significantly in this field, this is mostly because their profits would be low. More on the economics...
Why do we need microbicides if we will eventually have an HIV-vaccine?
No one strategy or technology will "solve" the AIDS pandemic. We must employ all existing prevention strategies --such as behavior change, voluntary counselling and testing, STI diagnosis and treatment, broad access to male and female condoms, and anti-retroviral interventions-- as well as expand our repertoire of tools and technologies. Microbicides will likely be available and accessible sooner than an HIV-vaccine. Even after a safe and effective vaccine is discovered, vaccines and microbicides will have different, complementary roles to play in an integrated, multi-faceted global HIV prevention strategy.