Researchers say a gel or a cream that allows women to protect themselves from the AIDS virus may be available within the next few years.

Scientists are discussing the possible breakthrough at a conference in Cape Town, South Africa that began Sunday.

The gel or cream would contain microbicides, a product with an ingredient designed to kill the HIV virus during sexual intercourse.

More than a thousand scientists have gathered at the conference to study the progress being made.

Southern Africa has some of the world's highest HIV infection rates. The United Nations says HIV infection rates among pregnant women are 20 percent or higher in six southern African countries, including South Africa.

The others are Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

Some information for this report provided by AP.