WASHINGTON: Scientists have developed a “molecular condom”, which they claim is actually a vaginal gel that would help protect women from contracting the deadly HIV during sexual intercourse.
According to them, before sex, women would have to insert the vaginal gel that turns semisolid in the presence of semen, trapping AIDS virus particles in a microscopic mesh so they can’t infect vaginal cells.
“The first step in the complicated process of HIV infection in a woman is the virus diffusing from semen to vaginal tissue. We want to stop that first step. We’ve created the first vaginal gel designed to prevent movement of the AIDS virus. This is unique. There’s nothing like it.
“We did it to develop technologies that can enable women to protect themselves against HIV without approval of their partner,” said lead scientist Prof Patrick Kiser of the University of Utah.
According to the scientists, due to cultural and socioeconomic factors, women often are unable to negotiate the use of protection with their partner.
“So we developed a vaginal gel that a woman could insert a few hours before sex and could detect the presence of semen and provide a protective barrier between the vaginal tissue and HIV. We wanted to build a gel to stop HIV from interacting with vaginal tissue.
“It flows at a vaginal pH, and the flow becomes slower and slower as pH increases, and it begins to act more solid at the pH of semen,” co-scientist Julie Jay said.
The scientists estimate that if all goes well, human tests of the gel would start in three to five years, and the gel would reach the market in several more years.
The findings of their experiment testing the behaviour of the vaginal gel and showing how it traps AIDS-causing HIV particles are to be published in the upcoming edition of the ‘Advanced Functional Materials’ journal.