New vaginal ring could prevent transmission of HIV

The International Partnership for Microbicides' vaginal ring. (photo credit: Twitter/@IPMicrobicides)

Researchers of two major studies announced on Monday that they had developed an insertable vaginal ring which could cut the risk of an HIV infection for a woman in half, if used correctly. Dr. Jared Baeten of the University of Washington, lead author of one of the studies called it  “the first demonstration of a sustained-release approach for HIV prevention.” Nevertheless, the studies revealed that younger women were less likely to use the ring as intended, increasing their risk of an infection.

Baeten’s team looked at 2,600 women in four African countries that had been hit hard by the virus: while the ring reduced the risk of HIV by 27 percent on average, that number rose to 61 percent among women over the age of 25. The second study, led by Annalene Nel of the International Partnership for Microbicides, showed that younger women hardly used the ring at all, and the risk of infection for women aged 18 to 21 only decreased by 15 percent. The ring is meant to be inserted once a month and then left in place, leaving the researchers baffled as to why young women were inclined to take them out anyway. Nevertheless, now that trials have shown that the rings are effective when used properly and have very little side-effects, they could become a much-needed and powerful tool in protecting women’s health. More than half of 35 million people living with HIV worldwide are women, and they are often in vulnerable positions, which is why women “need a discreet, long-acting form of HIV prevention that they control and want to use,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which helped to fund the study.

Read the full story at NBC.

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