An international clinical trial has deemed the PRO 2000 vaginal microbicide ineffective as an HIV prevention method, according to the Medical Research Council.

The four-year, placebo-controlled trial by the U.K.-based Microbicides Development Programme (MDP) found that female participants who used PRO 2000 did not have a significantly reduced HIV risk compared with participants who did not use the vaginal gel. The trial enrolled 9,385 women at six research centers in four African countries.

Researchers gave trial participants the vaginal gel along with an HIV prevention package including condoms and sexual health counseling.

“It is unfortunate that this microbicide is ineffective at preventing HIV infection, but it's still vital for us as scientists to continue to look for new ways of preventing HIV,” said professor Jonathan Weber, cochair of MDP's program management board. “There are many research groups exploring different avenues to tackle HIV; it is a slow process, but we are making progress.”

However, a South African trial participant said the trial successfully educated women about HIV prevention. “We learned a lot about caring for ourselves, such as using condoms. We also learned to encourage others to test for HIV, and we gained confidence in helping those who were already infected.”