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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 May 29;361(1469):811-20.

New ways of preventing HIV infection: thinking simply, simply thinking.

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  • 1University of Melbourne Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 132 Grattan Street, Carlton Vic. 3053, Australia.


HIV infection is the greatest health crisis in human history. It continues to spread unchecked among the poor in the developing world because we have failed to design simple preventative methods that are available and affordable to those living on under Dollars 2 a day. Five new methods are discussed. (i) A natural microbicide. Intravaginal lime or lemon juice has been used for centuries as a traditional contraceptive. The juice can also kill HIV in the laboratory, but clinical trials are needed to see if vaginal application is acceptable, safe and effective. (ii) Intravaginal oestrogen. Monkeys can be protected from Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection by keratinizing the vagina with topical oestrogen. If women take the oral contraceptive pill vaginally it retains its contraceptive efficacy, and the oestrogen it contains should thicken the vagina and protect against HIV infection. Clinical trials are needed. (iii) Male circumcision. Removal of the inner foreskin removes the main site of HIV entry into the penis, resulting in a sevenfold reduction in susceptibility to infection. The practice needs to be promoted. (iv) Post-coital penile hygiene. Wiping the penis immediately after intercourse with lime or lemon juice or vinegar should kill the virus before it has had a chance to infect. A clinical trial of efficacy is needed. (v) PhotoVoice. Asking schoolchildren in developing countries to photograph their impressions of HIV/AIDS is a powerful way of getting them to discuss the subject openly, and develop their own preventative strategies.

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