Kenyan Scientist Designs Gel to Protect Women Against HIV

Dr Peter Gichuhi Mwethera at the Institute of Primate Research Laboratories in Nairobi
Dr Peter Gichuhi Mwethera at the Institute of Primate Research Laboratories in Nairobi

A Kenyan scientist has made progress in designing a gel that can protect against HIV infection.

Dr. Peter Mwethera, who is a Kenyan reproductive health scientist is about to commence human clinical trials of the medical gel dubbed UniPron.

The gel, he explains, works by lowering and stabilizing the woman's pH at levels that are too acidic for the virus to survive. With that, the virus transmission is effectively stopped.

The animal tests conducted at the Institute of Primate Research saw efficacy in female baboons.

Dr. Peter Gichuhi Mwethera speaking in 2019.
Dr. Peter Gichuhi Mwethera speaking in 2019.

The scientific study found that it was effective in contraception and harmless to the tissues.

"All the five females (100%) that were treated with UniPron did not conceive and they regained total fertility when the treatment was stopped while all the controls conceived," an excerpt of the study results showed.

If the gel is successful in the human testing phase, it could go on to benefit millions of people across Africa.

Dr. Mwethera has a number of products developed by his research including two medical gels, Smugel and Smuscan.

The gel is also used to safely deliver babies and is especially valuable for women who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).

He has won various awards for his innovations including the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Award in Africa (2015), Africa Union Innovation Award, Brazzaville (2013) the best prize in Science and Innovation category in the Kenya Public Service Innovation and Award Scheme (2012), and best prize in National Council for Science and Technology Award, Kenya (2012).

Dr. Wethera was in 2019 awarded with the Head of State Commendation - Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (MBS) - for his scientific research.

The government is currently trying to manage a crisis following a shortage of Anti-retroviral (ARVs) drugs which partly came as a result of KRA demanding tax on donated ARVs.  

The Ministry of Health however approved a duty-free request for a Ksh90 million ARV consignment that was stuck at the port of Mombasa.

The drugs were donated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and had arrived in Kenya on January 18, 2021.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe addressing the media on October 18, 2020
Ministry of Health


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