The development of a gel by medical trials group CONRAD and the International Partnership for Microbicides, that may in the past have conducted studies into condoms, has been described as "promising" by a spokeswoman for the Global Campaign for Microbicides.

She noted that it is the goal for tenofovir - as it has been dubbed - to help reduce the number of people newly infected with HIV, although many factors need to be addressed to be sure of its impact, such as distribution, health care service provision and inventory systems.

According to CONRAD, the treatment was found to be 39 per cent effective in reducing women's risk of becoming infected with the disease during sex, as well as 51 per cent effective in preventing the onset of genital herpes.

The expert stated that the industry is "cautiously optimistic" regarding these facts, saying: "Science still must confirm this result. One or more trials must determine if this result can be replicated."