How is HIV transmitted? Most of us, probably know that unprotected sex with an infected partner is the chief way of transmission. However, there is a new innovation, the ring. Risky sexual intercourse is reportedly the single leading risk factor contributing to deaths among women aged between 15 and 45.
Females are commonly more susceptible to HIV infection. Moreover, Aids-related illnesses is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age worldwide in low- and middle-income countries.
Use of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEp) and the female condom have for decades been the only options for women to protect themselves from risk of HIV infection.
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But hopefully, this will change after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave a positive benefit-risk opinion. This is the use of the Dapivirine Vaginal Ring (DPV-VR) for HIV prevention. International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) developed the ring. Apparently, women now have the first HIV prevention option specifically for them. WHO approved the female condom nearly 30 years ago.
An EMA positive opinion, the WHO says, paves the way for regulatory approvals for the ring in countries where women could benefit from additional HIV prevention options.
“The Dapivirine Vaginal Ring safety profile is a real winner, making an over-the-counter, easily accessible PrEP product, with true end user control, available to women a real possibility,” says Dr Nelly Mugo, Chief Research Officer at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).
How to use the ring
Silicone is the material that makes the self-administered flexible ring . It is easy to bend and insert in the vagina. Once inside, it releases an antiretroviral (ARV) drug called dapivirine into the vagina slowly over the duration the user wears it. Currently, IPM has obtained endorsement for a monthly ring. This means the user has to replace it after 28 days, but CEO Zeda Rosenberg says they are developing one that can be used for three months.
How effective is it?
This vaginal ring is not as effective as oral PrEP. This is because it does not cover all kinds of transmissions. For instance, it does not prevent infection through anal sex hence it is recommended for use with condoms.
More than 90 per cent of trial participants said they would be willing to use the vaginal ring if it reduced the risk of HIV.