A cornerstone of public health is disease prevention. Tools to prevent STIs, such as vaccines, topical microbicides, and behavioral interventions, are a vital part of protecting the public against infectious diseases. Gardasil, a vaccine against the four most common strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), is an exciting accomplishment in the field of STIs. However, the work to develop safe and effective vaccines against other STIs continues. Most notably are the ongoing clinical trials to evaluate an investigational vaccine to prevent genital herpes.
Barrier methods—such as latex condoms and topical microbicides (a substance applied to the vagina or rectum that kills or disables the microbes that cause STIs)—offer highly effective protection against STIs. NIAID-funded researchers are conducting clinical trials to test new topical microbicides and female-barrier methods to prevent STIs. Used correctly and consistently these products may greatly reduce a person’s risk of acquiring or transmitting most STIs, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, syphilis, HPV, and HIV.
In addition, NIAID-supported researchers are conducting interventional and behavioral studies to identify social and economic conditions and sexual behaviors that may increase a person’s vulnerability to STIs. Results of this work may reduce health disparities, especially among youth, women, and underrepresented minorities.