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The best ways for people to prevent spreading HIV or a sexually transmitted disease are to practice safer sex and use STD testing services regularly to learn their status. However, research has shown that not everyone wears condoms during all forms of sexual activity, so researchers have been trying to come up with another way that people can reduce their risk of contracting HIV. For example, scientists have an anti-HIV gel for vaginal use that may help decrease risk , and now researchers have reformulated this gel for people who practice anal sex.
Researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health tested a reduced glycerin formulation of tenofovir gel and found that it was effective in preventing the spread of HIV, and deemed acceptable by the men and women who used it during anal sex.
Making it safer
This was the first study to evaluate the tenofovir gel reformulated with less glycerin. This is a common ingredient in many gel products, but researchers hoped that by using less of it, the gel would become more suitable for anal sex. This is particularly important considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that men who have sex with men are more severely affected by HIV than any other U.S. population.
The scientists found that the gel had minimal side effects and that the majority of participants used it as directed. In the past, studies have found that while the tenofovir gel formulated for vaginal use can effectively help reduce the transmission of HIV, women did not use it as directed.
"We are very encouraged that the reformulated gel was quite safe, and that most people who used it said they would be willing to use it in the future," said researcher Ian McGowan, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "These results have formed the basis for a follow-up study that should provide us with even more detailed information about the safety and acceptability of the gel."
These findings are promising because they suggest that it is possible to create a gel that is not only safe, but one that people will also commit to using during every sexual encounter. This is another step toward encouraging people to practice healthy behaviors, like utilizing STD testing services.
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