A new HIV treatment aimed at women could be on the horizon – let our experts explain for your stories.

A new HIV treatment aimed at women could be on the horizon – let our experts explain for your stories. A new HIV treatment aimed at women could be on the horizon – let our experts explain for your stories.

September 12, 20192 min read

Did you know?

  • 18.8 million women and girls are living with HIV
  • AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death among females between the age of 15 and 49
  • 1.8 million children are born with HIV, contracted from their mothers
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, 3 in 4 new HIV infections in teenagers are among girls
  • There are 5,000 new HIV infections per day

Women continue to be disproportionally affected by HIV around the world, but particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where three in four new HIV infections are among young girls. For women seeking care in developing countries, preventing and managing HIV is an expensive proposition. Truvada, the pre-exposure HIV treatment drug commonly known as PrEP, costs about $1,500 a month and must be taken daily for continual HIV protection. Likewise, the antiretroviral therapies that attempt to control HIV infection are costly at nearly $20,000 a year. These oral medications as therapy are a non-starter in developing nations like Africa, where nearly 30 million people are infected with HIV.

But Phil Santangelo, biomedical engineering professor at Georgia Tech, has another approach in mind. He’s working on an aerosolized RNA-based HIV preventative that eventually could protect women against the disease. It’s applied vaginally and, currently, the aerosol has been tested in pre-clinical trials. The early results are promising; it’s been shown to create HIV antibodies that ward off the infection. It also has the potential to protect against genital herpes and other pathogens, depending on what protein the RNA encodes for.

“A single administration of this aerosol is showing expression of antibodies against HIV for up to three months in pre-clinical trials,” said Santangelo. “Our hope is that this will be more affordable, granting easier access to women in developing countries, especially. With women’s health at the forefront of many conversations today, this has the potential to revolutionize disease prevention.”

Eventually, Santangelo says RNA could be used for contraception as well – the RNA would express antibodies that inhibit sperm. Again, if birth control can’t be accessed in developing countries, a self-administered, inexpensive aerosol could change the lives of many women.

Are you a journalist covering this very important topic? If you have questions or would like to know more about the research being conducted at the Georgia Tech College of Engineering – then let our experts help.

Dr. Philip J. Santangelo is an Assistant Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Santangelo is an expert in the areas of therapeutics and vaccines and HIV/SIV and hRSV. He is available to speak with media regarding this emerging discovery - simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.

Connect with:
  • Philip Santangelo
    Philip Santangelo Professor, Biomedical Engineering

    Philip J. Santangelo researches optical microscopy and in vivo imaging, RNA virus pathogenesis, HIV/SIV.

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