Vaginal Ring For Protection Against HIV Being Tested – Innovative Product Effectively Blocks AIDS Virus In Vulnerable Women

Alap Naik Desai - Author

Jan. 3 2018, Updated 2:54 p.m. ET

A new vaginal ring that has proven to protect women from HIV infection will be put through the paces. The U.S. government has confirmed it will pay for testing of a drug-infused ring that women can use to protect themselves from the dreaded AIDS virus. Interestingly, the product has shown promising results in older females.

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U.S. health officials will soon initiate testing on a vaginal ring that’s intended to protect women from HIV virus. The vaginal ring, containing anti-HIV drugs, managed to bring down the risk of infection. However, there were huge variations in the different test groups, compelling researchers to conduct a new cycle of testing. The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced that it will pay for a series of drug tests to ascertain the effectiveness of a ring that has proven to protect women from HIV infection.

The ring effectively reduced the risk of HIV infection by about 27 percent on average. While this may sound low, considering the number of infections that occur on a daily basis, this number is still considerably important. Interestingly, in certain test groups, the ring’s effectiveness shot up exponentially, implying it could be one of the best defenses against the disease. Moreover, the group in which the vaginal ring showed exceptional promise is the most vulnerable one. The ring lowered the risk of infection by 61 percent among women age 25 and older in African countries hard hit by the virus, reportedNBC News. Speaking about the intentions behind repeating the testing of the anti-HIV vaginal ring, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID said,

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“It’s worth finding out why the ring worked so well in older women but not at all in the youngest women. If you could get a 61 percent efficacy in the older group, that means there is something about this that works. The real question is, in the real world, why is it not working in the younger group? If it had no efficacy in any age group, then you would say it was hopeless. It is very clear that this can work under certain circumstances.”

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How does the ring work? The ring is infused with a powerful anti-HIV drug, dapivirine. The drug is commercially also known as TMC120. It is a highly potent ARV drug known as a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI). It means the drug effectively prevents HIV from replicating its genetic material after the virus enters a healthy cell.

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The vaginal ring infused with dapivirine has to be inserted into the vagina. The ring remains effective for about a month, but products with longer validity are being tested. The ring is made of a novel matrix technology that ensures even dispersion of the active drug throughout the ring. The ring is supposed to offer a “frontline” defense mechanism against HIV. Since the dreaded disease is most commonly contracted through unprotected sex, vulnerable women can stay protected in one of the most discreet of ways.

The need to repeat testing arises from the inconsistencies observed in the effectiveness, noted the researchers. Incidentally, blood tests conducted on the younger women who were part of the group suggested they had taken out the ring, reportedNew York Times. It is not known why they removed the ring. Researchers are concerned there might be some biological factors at play that reduced the vaginal ring’s effectiveness in younger women. However, if the ring failed in the younger women group solely because of a behavioral trait, perhaps these vulnerable women may have to be persuaded to use the ring regularly and protect themselves from HIV, shared Fauci.

With millions of people suffering from HIV and thousands more contracting the disease every day, the vaginal ring might be a powerful weapon for women to safeguard themselves.

[Photo by Manjunath Kiran/Getty Images]


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