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Diaphragms offer no extra protection Against HIV

A report in medical journal The Lancet, reveals another disappointing find in the search for a device to curb HIV infection in women.

Nancy Padian, executive director of the UCSF Women's Global Health Imperative, and team say that the female condom used in conjunction with the male condom is in no way superior to the latter, in preventing infection by HIV virus.

The team, also part of the Methods for Improving Reproductive Health in Africa (MIRA), did a randomized trial of almost 5,000 sexually active, HIV-negative women in South Africa and Zimbabwe. "Although the intervention seemed safe, our findings do not support addition of the diaphragm to current HIV-prevention strategies, the researchers write.

This trial was part of the $37-million clinical trial funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Africa. The news that the diaphragm, a sort of contraceptive device worn tightly to shield the cervix, failed to prevent HIV infection, is the latest in a growing list of disappointing efforts to curb the AIDS menace. The study was the most closely watched HIV prevention trial for women since January, when researchers abruptly ended studies of a vaginal gel meant to block the virus after early results showed the women who used it had a slightly higher risk of becoming infected.

A similar trial testing whether the contraceptive jelly nonoxynol-9 might work as an anti-HIV microbicide, failed in 2000, when the study revealed that prostitutes in South Africa who used it had a significantly higher infection rate than those who were given an inactive placebo gel.

"It's very, very disappointing, of course, Padian was quoted. "We were hoping to find a protective effect. ... It's taken me a long time to get over how devastating this is", she added. Researchers are desperately seeking a low-cost method that women could use (without the consent of male partners) to protect themselves against HIV.

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