New Hydrogel Formula Could Make HIV Treatment Significantly Easier

Pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers have gone a long way towards the development of safe and effective HIV management products. Antiretroviral medication therapy (ART) produces exceptional results, significantly extending the life of HIV-positive individuals and improving its quality. Unfortunately, the currently available formulations require a daily regimen that has to be followed religiously.

Right now, researchers are working on alternative methods of administering medications that can reduce the burden on patients. A new study suggests that a hydrogel treatment formula is bound to simplify the process of ART administration significantly.

More Freedom, Fewer Worries with New Medicinal Formula?

The results of the latest clinical trial got published in September 2023. Johns Hopkins University researchers experimented with an injectable formula that will eventually turn into a hydrogel under the right conditions.

The hydrogel contains the drug lamivudine – a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor that’s used in combination with other medications to produce effective antiretroviral therapies. An analogue of cytidine, the drug can inhibit the replication of the HIV virus in a highly reliable way.

When in the form of gel, the new product releases the medication gradually over the period of six weeks. You can easily understand how such a formulation is revolutionary. It completely eliminates the need for the administration of a daily ART dose.

Since HIV and AIDS are currently conditions that require a lifetime of management, consistency is essential. The new hydrogel formula ensures such consistency and makes it much easier for patients to stick with their medications in the long run.

More Tests on the Way

The hydrogel formula was tested in test tubes and later on injected in mice. The results of these first trials are to be published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

In the first experiment, the hydrogel formula showed little to no side effects. Obviously, additional research will need to be done and human clinical trials will also have to take place. If such additional endeavours continue establishing the safety and the efficacy of the treatment, it could potentially revolutionise the sphere of HIV management.

For people living with HIV, it’s very important to maintain steady levels of ART medications in the bloodstream. This is the key to consistent, long-term viral suppression. With the way ART is administered right now, such an effect can be difficult to achieve. The body is naturally trying to get rid of the chemicals, which can lead to concentration fluctuations.

The hydrogel formula is set to address this problem. The trials conducted so far suggest that once injected, the hydrogel stays in place underneath the skin and releases steady doses of lamivudine over days and even months.

Not only will the hydrogel reduce the need for daily treatment administration, it will also address another current problem. Because HIV-positive individuals have to maintain good viral suppression, the types of ART medications and dosages are frequently changed. When a drug is released slowly and steadily in the body, such changes wouldn’t have to take place. The therapy will maintain maximum effectiveness because of the manner in which the pharmaceutical product gets released (in optimal concentrations).

Such a hydrogel isn’t only beneficial for the treatment of HIV. It could also expand the current prevention opportunities. ART medications in the form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) are also used to reduce the risk of becoming infected after unprotected contact with HIV-positive individuals.

Imagine having months of freedom from needing PEP or PrEP. The longevity of the hydrogel is very impressive and the reliable protection will be enjoyed from day one.

Johns Hopkins University researchers have confirmed that the hydrogel consists solely of the active ingredient. There are no other compounds entering the body, which makes the injection easy to tolerate and unlikely to produce side effects.

Adhering to ART Therapy – A Current Challenge

It’s easy to find reports suggesting that many HIV-positive individuals struggle with adherence to their antiretroviral medication regimen. At the same time, being on schedule is incredibly important to maintain good viral suppression and even achieve undetectable viral load.

According to one 2015 study, 40 per cent of the people living with HIV in the United States aren’t virally supressed.

Several factors contribute to failures in following the ART regimen – acceptance of the diagnosis, self-motivation, prior experiences with healthcare, a diagnosis of depression and little trust in one’s HIV care team can all lead to inconsistent ART use. People who are consistent seem to be very much intrinsically and personally motivated. To achieve such a positive, individualistic mindset, however, isn’t necessarily easy for all individuals belonging to high risk groups.

Luckily, new medical advances are bound to address the issues that currently make HIV treatment somewhat challenging.

If you’re wondering about your status or you’d like to take better care of your sexual health, you have such opportunities in Singapore.

Licensed facilities like Shim Clinic give you access to testing, HIV PrEP, PEP and information on ART medications. You can have your questions answered by our knowledgeable experts in fully confidential settings. Contact Shim Clinic now or visit us during working hours every day of the week.


Fleischer, L., & Avery, A. (2020). Adhering to antiretroviral therapy: A qualitative analysis of motivations for and obstacles to consistent use of antiretroviral therapy in people living with HIV. Sage Open Medicine, 8, 205031212091540.