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Dissolvable ‘Tampon’ Could be Key to Preventing HIV in Women

Update Date: Aug 15, 2014 09:41 AM EDT

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an incurable but manageable sexually transmitted infection. Recent studies have been focused on finding a cure or creating better treatment options for the infection. In a new study, however, the research team focused on finding a better way to prevent HIV for women. The researchers created a dissolvable 'tampon' that can act as protection against the virus.

According to the researchers, around 84 percent of all women who test positive for the disease got it through heterosexual sex. For this group, the only prevention options are abstinence or the female condom, which is hard to find and use. The female condom is also a lot more expensive than the male condom. Due to the lack of options, the team at the University of Washington in Seattle has developed a product that can deliver microbicides, which are anti-HIV drugs without the hassle and messiness of using vaginal gels or creams. Recent studies have been trying to find a way to create topical ointments infused with these anti-HIV drugs. However, researchers have not been able to perfect these products.

In this study, the researchers reported that the experimental technology includes an electrically spun fabric that contains high concentrations of microbicide. The product needs to be inserted into the vagina, like a tampon, where the material dissolves once it gets wet. After dissolving, the microbicide gets infused into vaginal tissue within six minutes.

"That means women don't have to apply it far in advance of having sex," Cameron Ball stated reported by NPR. "There's a race between the anti-HIV microbicide to get to the tissue before the virus does. So the more quickly it dissolves, the better."

Ball, who worked with Kim Woodrow, plans on finding the ideal shape for the product that most women would prefer. He acknowledged that there is still a long way to go with this new type of technology. However, the bioengineers are hopeful that they can create an effective and easy to use anti-HIV product for women.

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