Researchers have discontinued further studies on anti-AIDS vaginal gel in Africa and India, following results of recent trials, which indicated that it could enhance the risk of HIV infection, instead of reducing it.
The gel in question, called Ushercell, contains a cotton-based compound called cellulose sulfate. This gel is developed by Polydex Pharmaceuticals, a company in Toronto.
More than 50% of AIDS infections in Africa concern women and girls. Researchers have been contemplating the employment of other protective measures which could be used by women, even without the knowledge of their partners. Scientists thought this would help in the scenario of many men refusing to use any protection during sex.
A study with 1,500 women in South Africa, Benin, Uganda, and India had to be halted during this week after a supervising board observed an increase in HIV infections among women using the gel, in contrast to women who were given an inactive medication.
"I cannot think of any biological basis for these findings, and I hope that further analysis of all of the data may shed further light on this important question," said USAID's research chief, Jeff Spieler.
"We did not find any evidence of greater risk of HIV infection," said a statement from Dr. Vera Halpern, who had spearheaded the Nigeria study. "But we also found no evidence that the product was effective."
Almost eleven trials had been conducted in The United States to evaluate the effectiveness of this gel, which had found the product to be safe and effective.