Are you aware of the huge advances scientists have made in preventing the spread of HIV? Somewhere in past the two decades since Magic Johnson bravely stepped forward to announce he had HIV in 1991 to the present day, scientists have developed miraculous advances in anti-HIV drugs. One such advance is the development of a vaginal ring containing dapivirine.
The non-profit International Partnership for Microbicides in 2012 developed a silicone ring similar to the contraceptive birth control rings already on the market for women in the United States. While this ring does not prevent pregnancy it does contain dapivirine, a known effective anti-HIV drug. The ring is designed to slowly deposit the dapivirine into the woman’s vaginal tissue. Dapivirine are non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) that prevent the HIV disease from duplicating itself and growing inside the body.
The spread of HIV, a sexual transmitted disease, has long been a problem in developing countries of Africa, where education on the matter is limited or interferes with their cultural behavior. It has been extremely difficult for health officials to promote men to wear condoms to stop the spread of the disease. Scientists hope with the ring, women can discreetly protect themselves if their male partners refuse to wear condoms.
Two Phase III test trial studies of the ring are already underway in the countries of Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The study trial referred to as ASPIRE led by Microbicide Trials Network (MTN) enrolled over 3,500 women from these countries to test the ring. The ring is only good for approximately 28 days and then must be replaced with a new one. A similar study called “The Ring Study” led by International Partnership for Microbicides is also being evaluated in Africa.
The goal of the test trial studies is to see how effective the dapivirine rings are in preventing the spread of HIV and also to see if the rings would fit into the everyday woman’s lifestyle. After all, if the rings are uncomfortable or too cumbersome to use, then the product would never work for mainstream use.
So far the results are proving to be very positive prompting other drug makers to develop similar rings. CONRAD, a Virginia-based nonprofit reproductive and HIV prevention organization, has developed a ring that prevents HIV and acts as a birth control. Their vaginal ring releases tenofovir (designed to fight HIV) and levonorgestrel (a contraceptive birth control) into the woman’s vaginal tissues over a 90 day period. Clinical trials are set to begin soon for their ring.
It seems hopefully that with these new rings we will be able to eradicate a deadly disease and save many lives. In the near future, the United States and other developed countries could see these products marketed to the masses and available to the average woman.