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Hopes for 'Invisible Condom' Awarded Federal Funding
Research in Quebec City prepares for human trials

RESEARCH into the potential of chemicals found in creams and gels to prevent HIV transmission was awarded a $350,000 boost by Canadian health minister Allan Rock Friday.

Previous News
HIV Blocking Potential of Microbicides Unrealized: Canadian AIDS Specialist
Quebec's l'Universite Laval goes 'Coconuts'
Ongoing exploration into using the application of these creams and gels as an 'invisible condom' has progressed from test tube and animal studies to human trials set to begin this fall.

The substances to be tested transform from a liquid to a gel upon being applied to the mucous membranes of body invaginations and being exposed to body heat.  They are considered to also have the potential to prevent pregnancy and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Centered at the medical school and hospital of Quebec City's Laval University, the three step evaluation process will first determine possible toxicity of the substances on about ten sexually active women.  From there the trials will expand to about 200 women including sex workers.  The final step prior to seeking federal approval for distribution will see testing on 1-3000 women.

The funding announcement was made Friday at a 2-day international conference on women and AIDS in Toronto.  The gathering of scientists and AIDS officials was sponsored by Canadian minister for international co-operation Maria Minna.

"The development of microbicides constitutes one of the most important new areas of prevention research and is sure to have a major impact domestically and abroad," Mr. Rock said.

Earlier in the conference Ms. Minna announced that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) will spend $120 million over three years to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries.  The commitment will triple Canada's present one of $20 million per year by the end of the 3-year plan.

"The economic destabilization of communities is staggering," Ms. Minna told the conference.  "The spread of AIDS undermines investments in education and human resource development ... it decreases agricultural production and further drives a wedge into the gender gap," she said.

Added Dr. Mark Wainberg, director of the AIDS centre at McGill University in Montreal and president of the International AIDS Society:  "AIDS is much more than a disease; it is a priority in international development."