A new HIV prevention ring presents a new independence for women
A new tool designed for women is about more than just safe sex, it’s about investing in women’s health, equality and freedom to choose safe sex.Results from two studies show how effective a new dapivirine vaginal ring can be in stopping the spread of HIV from the point of infection. This promises to be most effective in communities where women are often unwillingly unable to practice safe sex.HIV still infects millions of people. An SA breakingnews article approximates 6.8 million people already living with HIV in Southern Africa alone.
According to International Partnerships for Microbicides(IPM), 2 out of 3 HIV cases are women. IPM found that, globally, women need more options to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.2 600 women between the ages of 18 to 45,who were also considered to be at high risk of getting HIV, participated in the two studies conducted by ASPIREand The Study Ring. These women in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe were separated into two groups. One group was given a placebo while the other group was given the dapivirine vaginal ring.
According to SA Breaking News, the results proved a breakthrough in HIV prevention. 27% – 30% less women wearing the dapivirine ring contracted HIV, compared to the group that used the placebo drug. A surprising 56% decrease was seen in women older than 21 years of age.For many women, this product is more than just another option to practice safe sex. It’s also a way for women to take back control over their lives and their bodies. In the video seen below, leaders from various organisations explain that women often find it difficult to negotiate safe sex.In some instances, when a man refuses to wear a condom, a woman cannot negotiate with them because of her complete financial dependence on him.
This makes it even more difficult to prevent pregnancy and the spread of HIV and other infections.“Convenient, discreet and long-acting tools that do not require partner negotiation would give women the freedom to protect themselves — and stay protected — for a month or more at a time,” says Holly Seltzer from IPM.She also shares that during the study, many of the male partners to whom they spoke to find the ring highly acceptable. This proves to be yet another great benefit of the dapivirine ring.
On how comfortable wearing the ring is, Holly said that most women in the studies felt that once inserted, they forgot the ring was there.“Also, because the ring is designed to stay in place for a month, sex can be spontaneous,” she says.The ring is currently awaiting regulatory approvals, but Dr Cheryl Louw, Principle research at the Madibeng Centre for Research in South Africa, shares that once this ring is made affordably accessible to the public, it will provide a discreet choice for women to independently protect themselves.