HIV remains at epidemic levels in Africa. The highest levels in the world persist in sub-Saharan Africa where the combination of tuberculosis and AIDs causes the greatest number of deaths. Cultural factors including men’s resistance to condoms and widespread physical and sexual abuse factor in women account for nearly 60 percent of HIV-infected adults. The International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) recently presented data at the AIDS 2016 conference in Durban, South Africa that showed significant protection against HIV protection in women who consistently used a vaginal ring developed by the nonprofit group.
The monthly dapivirine vaginal ring was tested in two clinical trials earlier in the year, The Ring Study by IPM and a study named ASPIRE run by the U.S. National Institute of Health-funded Microbicide Trials Network (MTN). In those earlier trials, run against placebos, the monthly dapivirine ring reduced HIV-1 infection by 31 and 27 percent. A more recent trial, run by MTN, showed an HIV risk reduction of at least 56 percent among women who used the ring consistently, and as high as 75 percent in the subgroup of women who the report said used the ring the most.
So the ring appears to work when used consistently. “We are encouraged by these new analyses, which further support that the dapivirine ring could be an important option for women who urgently need new tools to protect themselves from HIV,” said Dr. Zeda Rosenberg, founder and CEO of IPM. “While IPM seeks regulatory approval for the ring,” Rosenberg continued,”we will continue to work to understand how we can best support women to use it consistently, and advance research to expand women’s options with additional new methods that make sense for their lives and needs.”
In addition to seeking approval from regulators, IPM and MTN efforts to expand consistent use and test with different subsets of women continue. The coalition also plans to test a three-month dapivirine ring and a ring containing a combination of dapivirine and a contraceptive.