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HIV Update: Consistent Use of Vaginal Rings Could Reduce Risk of HIV Transmission by 75 Percent

Oct 20, 2016 04:17 AM EDT

A recent study involving the use of experimental vaginal ring for HIV prevention revealed that consistent use of the ring could reduce risk of HIV infection by up to 75 Percent.

The ASPIRE study, or also known as MTN-020, examined the effectiveness of the vaginal ring, which is inserted once a month for continuous wear, in safely preventing HIV transmission. The ring continuously releases an anti-HIV drug dapivirine.

For the study, the researchers enrolled 2,629 women aged 18-45 years living in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The researchers discovered that the risk of HIV infection fell by 27 percent among the participant randomly chosen to use the experimental vaginal ring. Furthermore, participants who use the ring at greater frequency have reduced the risk of HIV infection by 56 percent. On the other hand, women who consistently used the dapivirine ring are 75 percent or higher less likely to acquire HIV.

Additionally, most of the women taking part in the ASPIRE study reported that the ring did not negatively affect their sexual activity. However, some women claim that they are constantly preoccupied with how their partners would react if they find out about the ring.

"Women need an HIV prevention modality that offers safe, effective protection and is practical for use in their daily lives," said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), in a statement. "Women enrolled in the MTN-020/ASPIRE study reported that the experimental vaginal ring generally did not interfere with sexual intercourse, which is an encouraging sign that this product could appeal to a larger group of women at risk for HIV infection."

The clinical potential of the experimental vaginal ring is currently being tested by other studies as well. In July 2016, researchers started the large scale HOPE (HIV Open-Label Prevention Extension) study, also known as MTN-025 that will tackle the clinical efficacy of the dapivirine ring. ASPIRE, HOPE and other their ancillary studies were primarily funded by NIAID, which is part of the National Institute of Health (NIH).

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