A Revolutionary Way To Prevent HIV Is In The Works

For women, this could change everything.

tampon prevents hiv
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's not unusual for sexually active women to worry about pregnancy (opens in new tab) and STIs. But, while there's a bevy of options available for women to prevent pregnancy (opens in new tab) (oral contraceptives (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab). 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.

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 (opens in new tab).

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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Diana Pearl
Diana Pearl

I'm an Associate Editor at the Business of Fashion, where I edit and write stories about the fashion and beauty industries. Previously, I was the brand editor at Adweek, where I was the lead editor for Adweek's brand and retail coverage. Before my switch to business journalism, I was a writer/reporter at PEOPLE.com, where I wrote news posts, galleries and articles for PEOPLE magazine's website. My work has been published on TheAtlantic.com, ELLE.com, MarieClaire.com, PEOPLE.com, GoodHousekeeping.com and in Every Day with Rachael Ray. It has been syndicated by Cosmopolitan.com, TIME.com, TravelandLeisure.com and GoodHousekeeping.com, among other publications. Previously, I've worked at VOGUE.com, ELLE.com, and MarieClaire.com.