HIV research to focus on women

2010-08-23 00:00

HIV/AIDS prevention for women should take centre stage during this women’s month, International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) chief Dr Zeda Rosenburg said last week.

Rosenburg was addressing health researchers, government officials, civil society advocates and business representatives during discussions on advances in clinical studies to develop HIV prevention products.

The Durban event was held to celebrate women’s month and was organised by IPM, a U.S. based non-profit research organisation specialising in microbicides.

“Women are at a much higher risk than men of contracting HIV and just on Women’s Day alone, more than 3 000 women worldwide would have been infected with the virus. For women’s month the figure will be 90 000.

“This is so because many women are unable to negotiate safe sex and use of condoms with their partners. Left unprotected for fear of reprisal, they can be at heightened risk of contracting HIV,” said Rosenburg.

She said thousands of women die every year from HIV-related causes for want of a discreet method to protect themselves against infection.

She said celebration of women’s bravery, dedication, and commitment to human rights during the struggle for democracy must not overshadow the urgent need to have prevention methods to save women from the disease.

“We must also use this time to discuss HIV prevention research and particularly the status of microbicide research, a field that would be nowhere without the incredible commitment from women in South Africa and across the globe,” she said.

Microbicides are medical products being developed to protect healthy people from becoming infected with HIV during sexual relations. Some microbicides are being designed only as vaginal products, others will be rectal products that both men and women could use.

Rosenberg cautioned that the road of clinical research is long and that scientists have to work together with government and communities to ensure that their work respects the highest ethical standards.

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