Scientists on Monday announced the results of a clinical trial that showed a microbicide releasing vaginal ring as a potential new tool for fighting the high incidence of HIV infections in African women. The ring reduced infection rates by about a third for African women in the clinical trial. The two studies had a total of 4588 women and those who used the ring were about 27% to 31% less likely to contract the deadly disease than the women who were given a placebo ring.
The International Partnership for Microbicides who presented the results at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston also said that the vaginal ring was much more effective among women older than 25 largely because older women were more likely to use the rings consistently. They reduced risk of HIV infection by 61% in one study and 37% in the other. The drug laced vaginal rings afforded almost no protection in women younger than 25, the women’s average age in the studies which ran from 2012 to 2015 was 26 and it included woman from different countries inclusive of; Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabawe and Uganda.
The vaginal rings contain an experimental drug which is called daprivine and is released over time, hence the need for consistency. The rings are modeled after normal vaginal rings currently employed for birth control or hormone replacement therapy. Zeda Rosenberg, the founding chief executive officer of the International Partnership for Microbicides stated the need for the research explaining that many women in developing countries have a difficult time persuading men to use condoms.
Amidst the celebrated potential for the vaginal ring, a lot of researchers were disappointed that the vaginal ring fell short of expectations, Dr. Mark Wainberg, director of an AIDS center with McGill University and the Jewish General Hospital said; “We would’ve hoped, I think, that the level of protection would actually have been larger than what they observed…This is really good news, it’s a step in the right direction, but we would’ve hoped for better.”
The vaginal ring only needs replacement once a month which offers a low maintenance option than alternative HIV prevention method, it also offers invisible protection which is a huge benefit to women vulnerable to rape.