Topical microbicides are new products with significant breakthrough potential in the fight against AIDS. They are substances that are applied in either the vagina or the rectum to reduce HIV/STI transmission. Although no topical microbicide is currently available, clinical trials are now underway throughout the world.

Studies are investigating topical gel products, the use of topical products with a barrier device, such as a diaphragm or cervical cap, and combination drug products with multiple mechanisms of action. One particularly appealing aspect of the vaginal application of microbicides is their potential to put protection more clearly in the hands of women whose partners are unwilling to use condoms.

Research and professional staff at RTI have significant direct experience in a variety of microbicide studies worldwide, including:

  • International and domestic research
  • Technical support, collaboration, and consultation for microbicide studies
  • Pharmaceutical development
  • Ethics support

More Information

  • Microbicides (brochure)
  • Women's Global Health Imperative
    Research on topics including HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive health, gender and economic inequities, contraceptive technologies, and community-based interventions among vulnerable populations in low-resource settings.

Selected Projects

The following list of project activities highlights the comprehensiveness of RTI's multidisciplinary approach to microbicides research.

  • International research: User perspectives on microbicide acceptability—leading a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded research grant in collaboration with Family Health International to investigate the acceptability of microbicides in the context of a multinational microbicides clinical trial.
  • Domestic research: Acceptability of vaginal microbicides across risk groups and time—conducting the largest multi-method U.S. study in which a proxy product was used to test acceptability among non-Hispanic blacks and whites and immigrant Hispanic adults and teens, individuals, and couples recruited from STI and family planning clinics.
  • Collaborative development of microbicides technology—conducting an acceptability and safety study of the Duet™ device as a possible delivery mode for vaginal microbicide gels. This study, being conducted in Zimbabwe, is focused on learning about women’s and men’s perspectives on this diaphragm-like device, and their preferences for the timing of product insertion.
  • Service on multinational research networks—leadership role on various NIH-funded multinational networks of research groups such as the Microbicide Trials Network, the HIV Prevention Trials Network, and the STI Clinical Trials Group. All these networks have active microbicide studies in the field, ranging from early safety studies to advanced studies of efficacy.
  • Ethics support for microbicides research—participating in numerous consultative ethics meetings, leading the development of an array of materials supporting the informed consent process, consulting on development of microbicide video materials, contributing to ethics training materials, and conducting ethics training for all staff levels.
  • Technical assistance and research support—supporting the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) on approaches and instrumentation for collection of data for IPM’s clinical research and its activities conducted in preparation for clinical trials.
  • Consulting and communicating—serving as consultants and advisors to microbicides studies led by non-RTI teams conducting research domestically and internationally.

Microbicides Websites

For more information about international microbicides research, consult the following websites: