Anti HIV Gel Trial Fails

Armen Hareyan's picture

A large study of an anti-HIV gel failed to protect study volunteers from being infected. The study was conducted among South African women living in Gugulethu, Isipingo and Soshanguve.

The study was to test Carraguard gel in preventing HIV transmission. The gel is developed by New York-based Population Council using carrageenan made from seaweed. It is widely used in cosmetics and food. The study was funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Carraguard's laboratory study showed the gel effective in preventing HIV, but the gel totally failed in a real life study.


It is very important for African women to have preventive medicine against HIV transmission, because most of African men are almost impossible to be persuaded to use condoms. Women don't have control over their husbands and sex partners, they need protective measures they can use themselves.

The study was conducted from March 2004 to March 2007 and initially had 9000 women volunteers of average 31 ages. 27% of volunteers failed, because they got tested HIV positive. 6202 women, who participated in the study, were divided into two groups. The first group was given Carraguard, the second group was given a neutral gel as a placebo.

Only 4244 women completed the study, because 18% of all women got pregnant during the study. They were excluded from the study, because Carraguard was not tested for pregnant women, and it was unknown if it was safe or not. About 13% of women were not properly followed up, so they also got excluded. By the end of the study there were 134 new HIV infections in Carraguard group and 151 in placebo group.

Besides, most of women used the gel only in 44% of times they had sex. Only 10% of volunteers used the gel every time. Researchers are now analyzing the data to find out how unsuccessful the trial was. However, there is a big plus in this study: during the study condom use doubled. There were about 33% men using condoms before the study, but during the study the number increased to 64%.

Carraguard is a vaginal gel to protect against HIV transmission. It's the first of its kind to show positive laboratory results. Previous attempts to develop such a gel failed even in laboratory trial, they were even increasing risk of infection instead of cutting it. This gives researchers new hope, and Population Council will go ahead for new studies based on carrageenan.