A Vaginal Ring That Prevents HIV Will Soon Arrive in Africa for Trials




A new vaginal ring that prevents transmission of HIV is set to be tested in Africa after it underwent a successful six-month trial among teenage girls in the United States. The ring, which has been treated with an antiretroviral drug called dapivirine, can be won for a whole month at a time and has the capacity to reduce chances of HIV infection by 56 percent, according to Vanguard.

With Dapivirine, the intra-vaginal ring is able to completely inhibit HIV’s reverse transcriptase enzyme – a protein that enables the virus to replicate and cause infections.

The ring also contains microbicides that are delivered into the vaginal compartment at a high concentration and directly absorbed by cells and tissues.

“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.

Enhanced Protection

This flexible ring, which sits on the cervix, is expected to give women the freedom to protect themselves from the deadly virus without trusting men to wear condoms, which do break sometimes.

After the six-month trial period, researchers reported that 87 percent of the 96 sexually active teenage girls who participated in the research had detectable levels of the antiretroviral drug in their vagina.

They therefore concluded that the ring is safe and suitable for young women, who are at a higher risk of being infected.

If it gets the necessary regulatory approval, the ring will become the first method of HIV prevention that exclusively targets women.

Global Epidemic

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been a major health concern, not just in Africa but around the world, even though some recent studies have shown a tremendous decline in the spread of the virus.

It is estimated that more than two-thirds of the total number of people living with HIV today are Africans, with sub-Saharan Africa alone accounting for almost 69 percent of the total.

Across Africa, the virus has raised death rates and lowered life expectancy among adults between the ages of 20 and 49 by close to twenty years.

Studies also indicate that at least 10 percent of the population in the South African region acquired the virus in 2011.

by Fredrick Ngugi
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