A vaginal gel containing the AIDS drug tenofovir reduced infection rates by 50 per cent after one year of use, in a study of 889 women, and by 39 per cent after two and a half years, researchers say. The results, which have yet to be confirmed, would mark the first time a microbicidal gel has been demonstrated as effective, the BBC reports. In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 60 per cent of those infected with the HIV virus are women, which makes such a method seem especially promising. Using a condom is not always an option for women around the world who have difficulty forcing men to take such precautions, making women vulnerable. What’s more, women are biologically at higher risk of infection than men. A gel would give women the way to protect themselves, giving them some control over their own sexual health. In this case, the gel was safe when used once in the 12 hours before sex, and once in 12 hours after, by women aged 18 to 40.