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Trial to assess vaginal ring for curbing HIV ‘on track’
  • Trial to assess vaginal ring for curbing HIV ‘on track’

Copyright: Flickr/ Olivier Dubuquoy, Doctors of the World UK

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  • The study, involving 2,629 women in four African nations, began in 2012

  • Researchers hope to evaluate the efficacy of a vaginal ring in African women

  • An expert says testing the adherence to the ring should be a core goal

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[MUTARE, ZIMBABWE] A clinical trial that aims to develop a new microbicide, which serves as a vaginal ring for preventing women from contracting HIV is on track, according to its latest review.   

Clinical experts says alternative prevention strategies are needed to help African women control HIV given that abstinence and the use of male condoms seem alone cannot stop the HIV epidemic.

The trial called A Study to Prevent Infection with a Ring for External Use (ASPIRE), which started in 2012 and ends in June 2016, uses a ring made of semi-porous material containing the antiretroviral drug, dapirivine.

“The vaginal microbicide ring as HIV prevention product will save young women who are eight times more likely to be infected with HIV than young men in southern Africa, for example.”

Nyaradzo Mgodi, University of Zimbabwe-University of San Francisco Collaborative Research Programme


The ASPIRE team recruited 630 Zimbabwean women to participate in the study,   says Nyaradzo Mgodi, clinical researcher directing the trial, who works for the University of Zimbabwe-University of San Francisco Collaborative Research Programme.
 
ASPIRE has enrolled 2,629 women in 15 clinical sites in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, according to US National Institutes of Health-funded Microbicide Trials Network, which is leading the study.

The International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), which developed the technology, says the ring slowly releases the drug, thus offering protection for a month or longer.

Mgodi tells SciDev.Net that the study was reviewed last year (4 November) by an independent board. “We are pleased that on its review, the data and safety monitoring board recommended ASPIRE to continue,” says Mgodi. “The ASPIRE team in Zimbabwe remains hopeful in finding the dapirivine ring a safe and effective HIV prevention method for women in Zimbabwe and the whole African continent.

“The vaginal microbicide ring as HIV prevention product will save young women who are eight times more likely to be infected with HIV than young men in southern Africa, for example.”

Brid Devlin, vice-president of product development for IPM, tells SciDev.Net: “Our acceptability and clinical research to date has shown that the ring is safe, well-tolerated and acceptable to women, and that they are willing to use it if it proves to be effective against HIV.”  

Devlin adds: “If the study shows efficacy, IPM — as the product developer and regulatory sponsor — will seek regulatory approval so that women in the countries hardest-hit by the epidemic have affordable access to the ring, ” noting that  IPM is already developing multipurpose prevention technologies aimed at tackling and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Auxillia Chideme-Munodawafa, associate professor of health sciences at Africa University in Zimbabwe, lauds clinical trials that aim to protect women against getting HIV through heterosexual intercourse, but recommends monitoring the adherence and efficacy of products such as the vaginal ring resulting from such studies.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.

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