A 24-month trial by South African scientists to confirm the efficacy of a microbicide gel that would reduce the risk of women getting HIV, has found an unexpected spin-off - it also boosts sexual pleasure.
Wits professor Helen Rees, of the university's reproductive health and HIV institute, said the R300m trial would involve about 2,200 sexually active women at seven locations countrywide.
The Tenofovir gel study - known as Follow-on African Consortium for Tenofovir Studies (Facts) study - would be a follow-up to the Caprisa 004 study, which showed that a highly consistent use of the microbicide by women resulted in a 59 percent reduction in the risk of HIV infection.
Rees said during a previous study involving another gel - that proved unsuccessful in the fight against HIV - participants had noted the gel improved their sexual pleasure.
"One of the big messages we got, was many women said 'We liked this', News24.com quoted her as saying.
Most of the feedback during that study had come from women in their menopause. If the gel proved successful, the sexual pleasure factor could be a potential marketing option, she said.
But while sexual pleasure might be a positive spin-off, the primary focus of the Facts study would be seeing if it backed up the Caprisa 004 study, which involved a smaller sample of women at only two locations in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Facts study would see the participants, aged between 18 and 30, using the gel 12 hours before intercourse and within 12 hours after intercourse.
The results of the study were expected to be released by the end of 2013.