The ring contains an antiretroviral drug called dapivirine and is used for a month at a time.
Dapivirine works by blocking HIV’s ability to replicate itself inside a healthy cell while Levonorgestrel is a hormonal contraception widely used to prevent unintended pregnancy.
The main goal of the study is to “assess the safety and pharmacokinetics (how the body processes the two drugs),” a press statement announcing the start of the first clinical trial of the ring stated.
The dual purpose ring study comes after two trials last year found that a monthly vaginal ring with dapivirine alone was safe and reduced the risk of HIV infection by 30% and up to 56% among women who used it consistently.
An HIV testing exercise. Experts say over 500 girls get infected with HIV every week and that the teenage pregnancy rate is very high
The ring was found to be easy to use and provided continuous and discreet protection against HIV.
International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) built on this innovation to also address the important women’s need for contraception.
“Women’s sexual and reproductive health needs do not exist in isolation, and neither should their prevention options. A long-acting product that gives women two prevention methods in one may be quite appealing,” said Dr. Zeda Rosenberg, founder and chief executive officer of IPM.
“The only way to end the HIV epidemic is to offer women product options that meet their various needs, and IPM remains committed to making this a reality.”
HIV and maternal death are two of the major causes of death among women of reproductive age in especially the developing countries.
Each intravaginal ring contains one or more microbicides that are intended to be delivered into the vaginal compartment at a high concentration and to be directly absorbed by the cells and tissues.
The flexible ring, which sits on the cervix, is said to cut infection by 56 percent.
At the end of a six-month trial to ascertain its effectiveness, researchers found that 87 percent of ninety-six sexually active girls who partook had detectable levels of the drug in their vagina.
The study investigators concluded that the ring is safe and acceptable to young women.
“HIV doesn’t distinguish between a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old. Access to safe and effective HIV prevention shouldn’t either, young women of all ages deserve to be protected,” said Sharon Hillier, principal investigator and vice chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
If the ring gets regulatory approval, it would be the first method of prevention exclusively for women.
The study was presented at the 9th International AIDS Society conference in Paris