We know one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of HIV is to wear a condom during sex. But for many too many women around the world, getting a man to use protection before sex is nigh unto impossible. Now there may be a new way for these women to shield themselves: Tampons that deliver anti-HIV medication. If it works, it could put prevention into the hands of women and save millions of lives.
How does it work? It's a tampon-like device that combines maraviroc (a drug used to treat HIV infections) with fine, electrically spun fibers. A woman could insert it minutes before having intercourse. When it makes contact with moisture, the fibers dissolve, releasing a high dosage of the drug into the woman's vagina and hopefully guarding against an infected sex partner.
Researchers at the University of Washington introduced the new HIV-preventing device, which is still in clinical trials, in a study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Lead researcher Cameron Ball told Huffington Post, "We envision a product that could dissolve, pretty much instantaneously, into a gel and then spread around the vagina during sex."
In addition to preventing the spread of HIV, the tampons have the potential of preventing other sexually transmitted diseases and possibly even pregnancy. That's the good news. The bad news is we are at least 10 years away from seeing these devices on store shelves.
Half of all people living with HIV around the world are women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a quarter of the people living with HIV in the U.S. are women (as of 2009). And we are twice as likely to contract HIV from men as the reverse. Keep in mind, gentle readers: Not every woman in the world is in a relationship with a partner who is faithful and drug-free. Not all sex between married couples is consensual. It's important that we help more women protect themselves.
Do you think women would be willing to use this HIV-preventing tampon if their partners were unwilling to wear condoms?
Image via © Sporrer/Rupp/cultura/Corbis