It may be the epicentre of the AIDS pandemic, but it is on African soil that tests have offered hope to women trying to protect themselves from HIV.
Clinical trials of a vaginal gel in South Africa showed it significantly reduced the number of women contracting the virus.
The product was presented at the international AIDS conference in Vienna. Containing an anti-AIDS drug, it cut infection rates by nearly 40 per cent over two and a half years.
Dr.Antony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said the data was “significant.”
He said the gel fulfils: “a need in the sense of science and public health and prevention but also a need from a sociological standpoint for a group of people who, for so long, have had really very little opportunity to determine their own fate, namely women, particularly women in the developing world.”
Around 60 per cent of new infections in Africa are in women and girls who often struggle convincing male partners to use condoms to protect them.
Experts say this refusal is one of the key reasons behind the spread of HIV/AIDS on the continent.