With HIV a continuing threat to women's health, the World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the first long-acting device to protect women from sexually transmitted HIV.
The device is a vaginal ring made of silicone elastomer, a flexible rubber-like material that makes it easy to insert and comfortable to use. The ring releases the antiretroviral drug dapivirine into the vagina slowly over 28 days.
Two large clinical trials found it reduced the overall risk of HIV-1 infection in women by 35% and 27%, respectively, while further studies suggested a risk reduction of about 50%.
The vaginal ring was developed by the nonprofit International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM). It is the first long-acting option available to women to reduce their risk of HIV. It's expected to be available in 2022 in sub-Saharan Africa, where women are in urgent need of HIV prevention.
"It's been a long journey, but we are just thrilled to announce on Worlds AIDS Day that this new ring product will soon be available to women to help further reduce HIV infection rates," said Peter Boyd, from the School of Pharmacy at Queen's University Belfast, U.K.
He and his colleagues, including Karl Malcom, have long been supporting development of a new drug-releasing vaginal ring to protect women from HIV, and are long-time collaborators with IPM.
"The dapivirine ring is just the beginning. In continued partnership with IPM, our goal is to help in developing other multipurpose products that can provide further benefit to women's sexual and reproductive health," Malcom said in a university news release.
The ring was lauded by the European Medicines Agency for use by women over 18 in developing countries who are unable to or choose not to take the daily HIV preventative pill (PrEP).
WHO's approval of the device is for Zimbabwe, and regulatory reviews are ongoing in other countries in eastern and southern Africa.
The ring should be included as part of a combined prevention package for women at substantial risk of HIV infection, according to the WHO.
Queen's University Belfast researchers are also working with IPM on a product that provides continuous release of two drugs -- dapivirine and levonorgestrel -- over three months to protect against both sexually transmitted HIV infection and unintended pregnancy.
The World Health Organization has more on HIV/AIDS.
SOURCE: Queen's University Belfast, news release, Dec. 1, 2021