EXISTING STRATEGIES of prevention have largely failed to address women’s vulnerability towards HIV prevention. But arrival of Microbicides can easily reduce the risk of woman getting HIV through sex. Microbicides are still being studied and might reach the market in the coming three years. A significant political will, public investment and popular demand is still needed before they become available, says Ananthy Thambinayagam, India programme advisor on global campaign for microbicides and was in town on Saturday on a visit.
“Microbicide is a substance that can substantially reduce transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and sexual transmission of HIV. It can be produced in the form of gel, cream, suppository, lubricant or foam,” she informed. Women are more vulnerable to HIV and the infection is rapidly becoming a woman’s epidemic globally. Approximately, 14,000 persons are infected with HIV everyday and half of these are women. A majority of women had only one mode of exposure to HIV – sex with their male partners.
But what are the options available for women to protect themselves from the infections, especially when woman don’t have any say in sex? Many studies have reported that women who do perceive themselves at risk for HIV had little success in asking their husbands to use condoms. Microbicides might be the answer for this question being asked every time since ages, she added.
Microbicides are currently not available but scientists all over the world are working on dozens of product leads and running tests on the efficacy of the products. These tests are being run worldwide and in many institutes in India as well.
HIV risk escalates among adolescent girls because of their physical vulnerability and susceptibility to rape, forced marriage, trafficking, economic dependence and coercion. Violence, coercion, and economic dependency render millions of women of all ages unable to ‘negotiate’ condom use or to abandon partners who put them at risk.
But with arrival of microbicides, we hope to reduce the gap in gender disparity in sexual matters as women can always use it secretly without informing the male partner. Some microbicides would also be contraceptives, offering women a dual protection method. Others would not be contraceptive, enabling women to become pregnant without risking infection.