Research initiated 20 years ago at the Medical Research Council and in the past ten years at Caprisa finally culminated in a definitive proof that a microbicide, namely tenofovir gel, reduces the risk of women contracting HIV.
“Twenty years might sound a long time,” she said this week, “but this sort of science requires painstaking input from every member of the research team. We have had to ensure that every avenue – from concept to proof – has been covered. Now that we can prove that tenofovir gel works, we are looking forward to implementing the next step.”
That next step, awaiting approval from the Medicines Control Council, will test the feasibility of integrating tenofovir gel provision into family planning services.
As a principal researcher in the Caprisa 004 scientific research programme, Abdool Karim demonstrated that the gel prevented both HIV and Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Type 2 infection.
It’s a finding that has been lauded as one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in the fight against Aids by WHO, UNaids and several leading organisations
“But there is no time to rest on these laurels,” she says. “There is much work still to do.”