The Grapevine

This Vaginal Ring Promises To Help Women Prevent HIV

Women in Africa are using a new vaginal ring in an effort to reduce HIV risk. This is part of a large-scale study that aims to address the high and growing rates of transmission of the disease in many regions. 

In 2017, nearly 870,000 young and adult women acquired HIV in Africa. Researchers said HIV prevention was a major challenge for many women due to limited preventive methods and low chances of encouraging male sexual partners to use condoms. 

The viginal ring gives women more power. The user inserts the material herself once a month or every four weeks that will then release the anti-HIV drug dapivirine.  

The study, called HIV Open Label Extension (HOPE), showed the viginal ring could reduce HIV risk by 39 percent. Researchers said the preventive tool was created to be discreet, long-acting method for women. 

"Women need choices of HIV prevention tools that fit their needs and that they can initiate," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. "Additional efforts to develop HIV prevention options continue in the hope that one day, women will have a range of HIV prevention products from which to make an informed choice."

Testing The Vaginal Ring As HIV Prevention

The HOPE study followed ASPIRE clinical trial and The Ring Study demonstrated in 2016, which showed dapivirine reduced the risk of HIV infection by nearly 30 percent in women. HOPE aimed to analyze the safety of the anti-HIV drug and ring. 

For the latest study, researchers gathered 1,456 former ASPIRE participants from Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. All women involved were sexually active aged 20 to 49 years and were HIV negative. 

Researchers found that among all ring users, HIV incidence was 4.4 percent a year after starting the study. Compared to ASPIRE’s results, more women used the ring in the latest study. 

"Women urgently need more options for HIV prevention that fit into their lives," Jared Baeten, lead HOPE researcher and a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, said. "The results reported today show that some women may desire to use the monthly dapivirine vaginal ring, if available, to help protect themselves from HIV."

Vaginal Ring A woman holds the dapivirine vaginal ring. Andrew Loxley/International Partnership for Microbicides