The vaginal ring that can prevent HIV infection
Although the number of new infections has declined recently, HIV remains the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. Prevention research has made considerable progress during the past few years in addressing the biological, behavioral and social factors that influence women’s vulnerability to HIV infection.
Nevertheless, substantial work still must be done in order to implement scientific advancements and to resolve the many questions that remain. There are some recent advances in HIV prevention research for women.
Currently, The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced that its human medicines committee (CHMP) provided a positive benefit-risk opinion on the use of the Dapivirine Vaginal Ring (DPV-VR) for HIV prevention.
The DPV-VR is intended to be used to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV during vaginal sex for women aged 18 years and over, who are at higher HIV risk, in combination with safer sex practices when oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is not used, cannot be used or is not available.
The antiretroviral drug dapivirine is released from the ring into the vagina slowly over one month. The ring is made of silicone and is easy to bend and place in the vagina.
The vaginal ring was developed as a female-initiated option to reduce the risk of HIV infection. The ring should be continuously worn in the vagina for a period of 28 days, after which it should be replaced by a new ring. CEO Zeda Rosenberg says they are developing one that can be used for three months.
The DPV-VR is intended for use by women as a complementary prevention approach in addition to safer sex practices when women cannot use or do not have access to oral PrEP. While contraceptive vaginal rings have been available for several years, the DPV-VR is the first vaginal HIV prevention product.
IPM CEO Dr Zeda Rosenberg projects the ring to be available to women in Africa by 2021 with research ongoing to develop a vaginal ring that includes contraception and HIV prevention.