With HIV a continuing threat to women’s health, the World Health Organization 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 showed it reduced the overall risk for HIV-1 infection in women by 35 and 27 percent, respectively, while further studies suggested a risk reduction of about 50 percent.
The vaginal ring was developed by the nonprofit International Partnership for Microbicides. It is the first long-acting option available to women to reduce their risk for HIV and is expected to be available in 2022 in sub-Saharan Africa, where women are in urgent need of HIV prevention.
The ring was lauded by the European Medicines Agency for use by women older than 18 years in developing countries who are unable to or choose not to take the daily HIV preventative pill. The WHO 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 for HIV infection, according to the WHO.
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