Trying to prevent HIV infection through vaginal gels or daily tablets has proven ineffective in the southern African region ravaged by the disease because people did not use the medicines properly, a study released on Monday said.
A ground-breaking study issued in 2010 indicated a vaginal gel containing an HIV drug can sharply reduce infections in women who use it before and after sex.
However, a test of the gel and two types of anti-HIV pills among more than 5,000 women in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Uganda showed that, based on blood tests, more than 70 percent did not use the medication as instructed.
"We are obviously disappointed in the results. We were very hopeful that these products, which we know have been effective in other studies and clearly have a lot of promise, would work," Jeanne Marrazzo, a researcher on the project for the University of Washington, told reporters in a teleconference.
"Women did not use consistently any of the products. Adherence was very low," said Marrazzo, part of the project known as the Vaginal and Oral Interventions to Control the Epidemic (VOICE).
HIV/AIDS experts said the results showed how important a factor human behavior is when devising ways to prevent HIV.
"HIV prevention is never just biomedical - behavior is key. What we've learned from VOICE and other trials is that adherence to the prescribed dose - the behavioral component - is the variable that determines effectiveness," said Mitchell Warren, director of the HIV prevention advocacy group AVAC.
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