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A panel of experts on microbicides—topical products that can reduce the risk of HIV infection—gathered on November 30 in Washington, DC, to discuss next steps following the landmark CAPRISA microbicide trial. Trial results released in July show that a microbicide gel containing a drug called tenofovir provided moderate protection against sexually transmitted HIV when used before and after sex.

Ebrahim Rasool, South African ambassador to the United States, and Dr. Nomonde Xundu, South Africa’s health attaché, hosted the event at the South African Embassy to bring together US and South African government representatives and leading researchers to discuss the trial’s implications. Yasmin Halima, director of the Global Campaign for Microbicides (GCM) housed at PATH, moderated the panel discussion.

The CAPRISA 004 trial, conducted by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), tested the safety and effectiveness of the tenofovir gel among nearly 900 women in South Africa over a two-year period. GCM and other microbicides advocates have hailed its results as an important milestone that brings the global health community closer to effective topical HIV-prevention options, especially for women.

Speakers at the event emphasized women’s vulnerability to HIV and the challenges of ensuring access to effective prevention products. A key focus of the discussion was on lessons learned from the successful collaboration between the United States and South Africa in promoting country ownership and the extensive cooperation among sectors and across continents.

The event further strengthened the US-South African partnership in moving forward with microbicide and HIV prevention research and implementation. Next steps include obtaining regulatory approval for the tenofovir microbicide gel, beginning manufacture, and working with communities to promote understanding, accessibility, and acceptability of the gel.

The event was organized by GCM in partnership with FHI, the Global Health Council, and the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa.

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Posted December 9, 2010.