Scientists are making strides in finding ways of preventing the spread of HIV among women with two studies, the injectable cabotegravir and dapivirine vaginal ring receiving positive recommendations.
Both studies aim at protecting HIV women who are considered the most vulnerable population.
On Monday, the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) showed that injectable cabotegravir, also known as CAB LA is highly effective in preventing HIV acquisition.
The long-acting Pre-exposure prophylaxis (Prep) product could offer a better choice for women at substantial HIV risk who either do not want to take or struggle with taking a daily tablet.
The study was conducted in 20 cities in seven countries including Malawi, Zimbabwe, Uganda and South Africa.
In Malawi, the study was conducted by the John Hopkins in Blantyre and University of North Carolina (UNC) project in Lilongwe.
Speaking in an interview, co-chair of the HIV Prevention and Treatment network (HPTN) 084 study who is also UNC project scientific director in Malawi Dr. Mina Hosseinipour, said the Antiretroviral injection gives women 89 percent protection from getting infected with HIV for eight weeks.
However, according to a statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released on Monday, before CAB LA becomes available to people outside the study, the trial results will have to be fully reviewed and submitted to a stringent regulatory authority for approval.
“CAB LA and manufacturing capacity will have to be developed. There are also other safety and implementation issues that need to be considered prior to a broader roll-out,” reads the statement in part.
WHO estimates that it will likely take more than a year before CAB LA will be more widely available.
If approved by WHO, the countries that took part in the study will be the first to benefit.
“It will also depend on how Malawi will determine whether this is the priority, how it would want it to be rolled out, as well as the availability of recommended guidelines and policies,” Hosseinipour said.
On the other hand, one of the international regulatory bodies called the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has given a positive opinion on the dapivirine vaginal ring.
The ring which has proven to reduce HIV risk by 61 percent is inserted in the vagina and it slowly releases a drug called Dapivirine to prevent HIV infection.
Novice Bamusi, Country Program Officer for the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Africa Trust-SAT a research literacy advocate for the study said on July 24 2020 that EMA approved that dapivilin ring is safe to use by women between 18 to 45 years.
Bamusi said this is very exciting as soon there will be a lot of options that more vulnerable women would choose from to protect themselves from HIV.
“The rolling out of the dapivirine ring also awaits approval by the World Health Organization and hopefully this will be done by 2021 or 2022,” said Bamusi.
Linly Seyama, Community engagement and study coordinator at College of Medicine’s John Hopkins, described the strides in the studies as good news saying it will mean more protection to more women.
Seyama said women are more vulnerable to contracting HIV than men hence the two studies are significant as they will help empower women in terms of sexual choices.
“With these two methods of preventing HIV, a woman will be able to protect herself without even seeking permission from her male partner and the male partners will not even notice that the woman is using either of the methods,” Seyama said.