A Revolutionary Way To Prevent HIV Is In The Works

For women, this could change everything.

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It's not unusual for sexually active women to worry about pregnancy and STIs. But, while there's a bevy of options available for women to prevent pregnancy (oral contraceptives, IUD's, and NuvaRing, to name a few), STIs can get a tad more complicated. Recent scientific developments, though, may put the power completely in a woman's hands (no more finicky condom problems).

Bioengineers at the University of Washington are developing another option, the nitty gritty details of which are published in a new study in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. This new alternative comes in the form of a tampon—sort of. Rather, it's a tampon-like device that contains maraviroc, a drug that helps treat HIV, but also may be able to prevent the infection from developing in the first place. Essentially, you insert the device, it turns into a gel, and during intercourse it spreads, preventing a potential HIV infection. To do this, the bioengineers combined maraviroc with silky fibers which dissolve when they are touched by moisture.

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Cameron Ball, doctoral student at the University of Washington and lead author of the paper on the topic, says that they were looking for an easy way for women to protect themselves at a moment's notice. "We want something that dissolves quickly so that people can say, 'Hey, I wasn't planning on it, but I'm going to have sex in five minutes so I need to use this product, and I want it to be completely dissolved before that,'" Ball told The Huffington Post.

HIV isn't the only thing researchers are looking to prevent using the fibers—others could include herpes prevention or contraceptives. But don't get too excited about this revolutionary technology—development is still in very early stages, meaning that if all goes well, we won't be able to see the product on shelves for another 10+ years due to the necessary approvals, clinical trials, and research. An improvement well worth waiting for.

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