AIDS Experts Urge More Protection for Women
Vaginal gels, which can be applied long before intercourse and used without a partner's knowledge, could be such a way, and Dr. Zeda Rosenberg urged that more resources be poured into the effort.
"Unlike vaccines, there has been virtually no private sector investment in microbicide development," said Rosenberg, chief executive of International Partnership for Microbicides.
"The science is there. The technology is there, and most of all, the passion and dedication of those in the field is palpable."
Early versions of these gels and creams would attack a range of bacteria, viruses and perhaps even human cells. Among complicating factors for developers are that microbicides also can kill cells in the vagina that help block HIV, Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg says microbicides may initially be only about 30 percent effective, but that second-generation products already in early development would more specifically target HIV and be more powerful.
She told The Associated Press that $1 billion is needed in research over the next five years if a viable product is to be made available commercially by 2014.
Other experts think it will take longer.
"It will certainly be more than 10, probably 15 to 20 years, if ever, before we have an effective microbicide," said Dr. Frederick Altice, an infectious diseases expert at Yale University.
"People are certainly looking for any area of optimism right now, but there are still basic questions about vaginal biology that have to be answered before we can design an effective microbicide," he said.
© 2004 The Associated Press