As a way to curb the high risk of HIV infection especially among women, a new invention reveals that a vaginal ring that secretes an ARV drug might just be the long sought solution.
Report has it that in Africa, young women have up to 8 times higher HIV rates than their male counterparts and this has been of much concern to researchers who have spent many years and millions of dollars trying to find a product that helps women protect themselves from HIV.
What seemed to be more challenging and needing quick response is the fact that most of these women find it difficult to tell their partners to use a condom.
Thanks to Scientists who recently released results from two trials showing vaginal rings that release ARVs reduced the chance of women get HIV by 30%. This was revealed at the Boston Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections on Monday February 21st.
According to the scientist, the vaginal ring infused with an antiviral drug offers protection against HIV infection, although not as much as doctors had predicted. Women who used the ring had a 27 percent lower risk of HIV infection than women who received a placebo.
The rings were tested in two simultaneous trials that both took three years and involved more than 8,000 women, many of them from South Africa.The slow-acting ARV called Dapivirine protects cells from HIV by stopping the virus from replicating. It however has to be replaced once a month and cannot be felt during sex.
More so, women older than 21, who used the rings consistently, without removing it, gained more as it helps to reduce the risk of HIV 56% – or protected one in two women.
However, the study’s authors noted that though the ring was modestly successful, several complicating factors were identified. First is that women from two of the 15 study sites had low rates of adherence; when the data are analyzed without those sites, infection rates were 37 percent lower among women who used the ring. Also, the ring was less protective among women younger than 21, a finding also correlated with lower consistent use.
South African researcher from International Partnership on Microbicides Annalene Nel, who led one of the trials, said: “These are two pivotal trials – showing safety and effectiveness [of prevention product for women] This is the first time two trials together have shown that women’s prevention products works.”
“The results are statistically significant,” said the head of one of the studies, Dr Jared Beaten from the University of Washington. Nel said adding that scientists would approach the South African Medicines Control Council to licence the rings.
Unfortunately, young ladies under the age of 21 are not protected by this ring. Explaining why, Thesla Palanee-Phillips, a researcher from Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute said it is because blood tests and examination of rings after use revealed young women under 21 didn’t use them consistently.
Nel added that under 21 women were also the least likely to use birth control pills or condoms. Follow-up studies are planned to find out how to help women under the age of 21 use birth control and HIV prevention options more regularly.