(Stolen from The Conversation)
The results of two studies showing that a vaginal ring can help reduce the risk HIV infection among women are being hailed as an important HIV prevention breakthrough.
Launched four years ago, the two clinical trials, known as ASPIRE and The Ring Study, set out to determine how safe and effective the ring was in prevention of HIV infection in women. The ring, which is used for a month at a time, contains an antiretroviral drug called dapivirine that acts by blocking HIV from multiplying.
The studies enrolled close to 4 500 women aged 18 to 45 in South Africa, Uganda, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Each study found that the ring helps reduce the risk of HIV infection in women. In ASPIRE, the ring reduced the risk of HIV infection by 27 percent overall. In The Ring Study, infections were reduced by 31 percent overall.
But there were differences in how effective the ring was based on how consistently the women used it. Both studies showed that the more consistently the ring is used, the more effective it is in protecting women.
Women account for nearly 60 percent of adults with HIV. Unprotected heterosexual sex drives this figure. Despite tremendous advances in preventing and treating HIV, women still face a disproportionate risk of infection because there are insufficient practical HIV prevention options available to them.
If the ring becomes available for commercial use it will add to the tools in the HIV prevention toolbox for women alongside female condoms and Truvada, an antiretroviral tablet taken by HIV negative people as daily pre-exposure prophylaxis.
The studies show that the ring has the potential to help make a difference in reducing the burden of HIV by at least one third in women overall. This has significant implications for reducing the burden of disease in women in Africa.