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HIV Blocking Potential of Microbicides Unrealized:  Canadian AIDS Specialist
Issue to be addressed at first national Women & HIV/AIDS conference this month

A Montreal physician who specializes in HIV/AIDS treatment has criticized institutional players for failing to recognize the potential of microbicides to prevent the transmission of HIV.

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"A number of lead products have already been developed that have absolutely great potential," Dr. Mark Wainberg, director of the McGill University AIDS Centre and president of the International AIDS Society, told the Canadian Press today.  "The pharmaceutical industry and the governments of countries around the world have failed to realize the importance of this ... research," he stated.

Microbicides are gels and creams - such as those found in personal toiletries products - which could contain chemical agents thought to kill or neutralize HIV during sex and therefore prevent possible transmission.  They are being advocated as a possible form of safe sex, especially in situations where partners are reluctant to use condoms.

The creams or gels could be applied to vaginal or rectal tissues prior to sex.  They could play a significant prevention role with women.

Although promising, studies are needed to verify the idea and identify effective chemical agents.  But funding for development of these products has not been committed in Canada or elsewhere, Dr. Wainberg said.

Health Canada told CP that it and other ministries are seeking funds for microbicide research and confirmed that none have been committed.

Furthermore, an AIDS activist with the Canadian Treatment Advocates Council, Louise Binder, claimed "[there's a] shocking and shameful lack of research in every aspect of treatment relevant to women."

The first Canadian conference on Women and HIV/AIDS will be held May 25-28 in Toronto.  Microbicides and women-specific research are expected to be on the agenda for discussion.