Scientists in the United States confirmed on Tuesday that thousands of African women will take part in new research to determine the effectiveness of vaginal rings coated with an anti-AIDS drug in protecting them from HIV infections.
Of the 34.2million people in the world living with HIV, more than 50 per cent are women and 60 per cent of those infected women come from Africa. Scientists have said giving women in Africa these vaginal rings would help protect them even when sexual partners don’t use condoms.
Unlike previous methods researched in the past that required women to apply the anti-AIDS vaginal gel every time they had sex, this vaginal ring is inserted once a month and is said to offer continuous protection.
“We need options that fit readily into women’s lives,” added Dr. Sharon Hillier of the University of Pittsburgh and the Microbide Trials Network, which is conducting the new NIH-funded study.
The silicone ring, developed by the nonprofit International Partnership of Microbicides, contains an anti-AIDS drug named dapivirine. The drug will slowly ooze out into the surrounding vaginal tissue to offer protection, scientists explain.
They also warn that the vaginal rings will not protect against unwanted pregnancies and is only meant for HIV prevention.
Nearly 3,500 women from Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe will take part in the study, named ASPIRE.
The AP reports they will receive either a vaginal ring containing the gel or an identical looking drug free ring to be inserted once a month for a year.
The goal is to see if using the ring lowers women’s risk of HIV infection by at least 60 percent. The first women in Uganda were enrolled Tuesday, Hillier said.