After successfully rolling out Post-Exposure Prophylaxis-PEP, researchers have been working on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis-PrEP in a bid to find out how best human beings can prevent the virus from entering their bodies even after exposed to the virus.
Although currently in other countries high-risk populations are given PrEP (Aantiretroviral (ARV) drugs that can be taken by an HIV negative person before potential HIV exposure to reduce risk of HIV infection), the service remains scarce in many countries that are still struggling on how best they can regulate the service.
While PrEP through the ARV drug Truvada is said to be a new approach to reduce HIV transmission if used effectively, research on how best the world can reduce new infections is still going on the latest study being the ring study.
A ring that continuously releases an experimental antiretroviral drug in the vagina safely provided a modest level of protection against HIV infection in women. A large clinical trial in four Sub-Saharan African countries, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Uganda and South Africa, found that the ring reduced the risk of HIV infection by 27 percent in the study population overall and by 61 percent among women ages 25 years and older, who used the ring most consistently.
The clinical trial by the International Partnership for Microbicides and other organizations were design to determine whether the monthly vaginal ring that delivers the ARV drug dapivirine helps prevent HIV infection in women and is safe for long-term use.
Sharon Hillier, a Microbiologist at the University of Pittsburgh, United States, said the results are a positive sign in as far as the fight against the pandemic is concerned.
“Those who used the ring effectively got positive results unlike those who didn’t use it effectively. Therefore, I would say this research first phase results were effective,” Hillier said.
Lack of adherence is said to be the major setback in the research even though a good number of participants cooperated.
The ASPIRE (A Study to Prevent Infection with a Ring for Extended Use) study evaluated whether the ring could reduce HIV infection among those on trial. It found that the ring reduced the risk of HIV infection by at least 56% among women who used it with greater frequency and up to 75% of higher among women who used it consistently.
Elizabeth Bukusi, Chief Research Officer at Kenya Medical Research Institute, said that participants who did not adhere mostly were ages 18-24 and other women who were afraid with how their partners would reactif they felt or discovered the ring.
“The results show a great breakthrough in as far as HIV prevention is concerned and that some analysis made by health experts on the findings show that the ring can be an effective tool in preventing HIV risk in women,” Bukusi said.
An analysis by the HIV Open-Label Prevention Extension-HOPE, through further exploration of the ring’s clinical potential in July 2016, says the vaginal ring did not interfere with sexual intercourse, did not cause discomfort and that their partners did not feel it, which shows that many can like the product.
According to the researchers, a woman is required to insert the Vaginal Ring once a month and live it in place.
More than half the 35 million people infected with HIV globally are women according to the World Health Organization.
In Malawi HIV affects women more in comparison to men. The 2010 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey indicate that HIV prevalence among women was 12.9% compared to 8.1% HIV prevalence among Malawian men.
Experts at the HIVR4P Chicago conference agree that women desperately need something better than condoms to protect themselves from HIV since many live in communities where they cannot refuse to have sex with men, more especially their husbands.