A cornerstone of public health is disease prevention. Tools to prevent STDs, 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 STDs. However, the work to develop safe and effective vaccines against other STDs 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 STDs)—offer highly effective protection against STDs. NIAID-funded researchers are conducting clinical trials to test new topical microbicides and female-barrier methods to prevent STDs. Used correctly and consistently these products may greatly reduce a person’s risk of acquiring or transmitting most STDs, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, syphilis, HPV, and HIV/AIDS.
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 STDs. Results of this work may reduce health disparities, especially among youth, women, and underrepresented minorities.