As expected, studies have shown that a vaginal ring containing the antiretroviral drug dapivirine proved to be safe among teen girls under 18. Results were reported at the Ninth IAS Conference on HIV Science in Paris this week.
Young women between the ages 15 and 24 accounted for 20 percent of new HIV diagnoses across the world in 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, they young girls accounted for 25 percent of new diagnoses.
The ring aims to be an HIV prevention tool — similar to PrEP, a once-a-day pill that when taken adherently prevents an HIV-negative person from contracting the virus. It had already shown to be safe and effective among women between ages 18 and 45 in two prior trial studies: ASPIRE, led by the National Institutes of Health; and The Ring Study, led by the International Partnership of Microbicides. Both trials enrolled over 4,500 women from four African countries.
HIV transmissions were reduced by 27 percent among the female participants in the ASPIRE study, and 31 percent in The Ring Study. If approved for larger distribution, the dapivirine ring would be the first biomedical prevention product exclusively for women, Medical News Today points out.
"If the ring is approved for women older than age 18, it's imperative that we have the data in hand to show that the ring is safe to use in younger women as well," explained Sharon Hillier, Ph.D., principal investigator of the MTN, and professor and vice chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "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."
Another multipurpose ring is also being crafted currently in Phase 1 trials, which aims to be both an HIV preventative tool and a contraceptive. This ring was also developed by the International Partnership for Microbicides, mainly because the women involved in both studies expressed interest for a single multipurpose ring. And they just might get it!