Researchers in the United States confirm that a trial in which American teenagers used a vaginal ring to prevent HIV infection has proved successful.
Now, a further study will be run with teenagers in Africa. The girls used a flexible plastic ring, embedded with anti-retroviral drugs, which was changed every month over a six-month period.
The ring contains an antiretroviral drug called dapivirine and is used for a month at a time. Dapivirine inhibits HIV’s reverse transcriptase enzyme, a protein vital to HIV’s ability to replicate and cause an infection.
Each intra-vaginal ring contains one or more microbicides that are intended to be delivered into the vaginal compartment at a high concentration and to be directly absorbed by the cells and tissues.
The flexible ring, which sits on the cervix, is said to cut infection by 56 percent. Its usage gives women the freedom to protect themselves without relying on men to wear condoms.
At the end of a six-month trial to ascertain its effectiveness, researchers found that 87 percent of ninety-six sexually active girls who partook had detectable levels of the drug in their vagina. The study investigators concluded that the ring is safe and acceptable to young women.
“HIV doesn’t distinguish between a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old. Access to safe and effective HIV prevention shouldn’t either, young women of all ages deserve to be protected,” said Sharon Hillier, principal investigator and vice chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
If the ring gets regulatory approval, it would be the first method of prevention exclusively for women.
The study was presented at the 9th International AIDS Society conference in Paris.