Vaginal Ring Offers Some Protection Against HIV
Use of the new device cut infection rates between 27 percent and 56 percent in African women
By Alan Mozes
MONDAY, Feb. 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- An insertable vaginal ring containing a month's supply of a continuous-release HIV prevention drug reduced the risk of HIV in African women by at least 27 percent, a new study found.
The ring works by slowly and continuously delivering a highly localized and controlled amount of the antiretroviral medication dapivirine. This drug aims to halt the ability of HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- to replicate inside a healthy cell. The goal: to prevent HIV infection, rather than treat it, the researchers said.
"These results come after a number of challenging years in the effort to find ways to improve HIV control," said study lead author Dr. Jared Baeten, a professor in the departments of global health, medicine and epidemiology at the University of Washington in Seattle. "But while the dapivirine vaginal ring isn't commercially available yet, I'm really very optimistic about our findings, because they show that this type of HIV prevention approach can be quite safe and effective."
However, not everyone was as excited by the study's results.
"Compared with people who take an antiretroviral pill to prevent infection, among whom you would expect 97 percent or so protection, the finding of 27 percent is very poor, of course," said Dr. Jeffrey Laurence, a senior scientific consultant for programs for amfAR, an HIV/AIDS research organization.
"But this does offer some protection. And it may be easier for some people to stick to it compared with taking a pill. So in a vulnerable group, this might certainly be better than nothing," he added.
The study was published in the Feb. 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. It was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
A nonprofit group called International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) is behind the development of the vaginal ring. The ring was created to give girls and women another way to help prevent HIV, in addition to condoms and a daily pill. In sub-Saharan Africa, women between 15 and 24 years old are twice as likely to be infected with HIV compared to young men, the IPM said.