On Monday, HIV/AIDS conference was carried out in Boston and one of the studies claimed that a vaginal ring may reduce the HIV risk in women. The ring previously used in Sub-Saharan Africa and 30 percent decrease in the infection rate were observed. The new vaginal ring implemented to 1959 women who are between the ages of 18 – 45 and it reduced the rates of the infection by 31 percent without causing any health problems. This is a really high ratio when the ring is compared with the placebo. World Health Organization also believes that this application can make great contributions to the spread of HIV infection.

A New Ring to Protect Women from HIVVaginal Ring Can Help Protect Women Against HIV

A vaginal ring has been found to modestly reduce the risk of HIV in women, according to research announced at a HIV/AIDS conference in Boston on Monday.

In two phase III trials conducted in Sub-Saharan Africa, the monthly ring – which slowly releases an HIV-fighting drug, Dapivirine – reduced infection rates overall by about 30 percent.

The Ring Study safely reduced the infection rates by 31 percent of 1,959 enrolled woman ages 18-45, compared to the placebo. While the ASPIRE trial, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, lowered the rate of infection by 27 percent among women in the same age range.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 36.9 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2014. Of that number, 25.8 million people are from Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Dapivirine ring is the first long-acting HIV prevention method designed for women.

“Women need a discreet, long-acting form of HIV prevention that they control and want to use,” Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a press release.

Both studies saw significant differences in effectiveness according to age with the ASPIRE study resulted in a 61 percent reduction in women older than 25 likely because of their consistency to use the product compared to younger women. And Fauci confirms, “Further research is needed to understand the age-related disparities in the observed level of protection.”

About 1 000 people are infected with HIV every day in South Africa with most of those being young females aged 15-24.

The shocking statistic and the fight to reduce this number was the focus at the latest National Research Foundation Science for Society lecture titled “Getting to Zero” held at the UKZN in Durban on World Aids Day on Tuesday.

Professor Koleka Mlisana said one of the reasons more young women are becoming infected is because of their higher maturity levels that makes them more interested in older men. “We have found that high school girls date men up to seven or 10 years older than them,” said Mlisane, associate professor and head of Medical Microbiology at UKZN.

HIV Young women in SA still at high riskSpeaking on the history of HIV and Aids, Mlisane said that due to the rapid and different changes in the disease, doctors and scientists are finding it more challenging to combat it. “We have, however, significantly reduced mother to child transmission by more than 50%. This great feat makes it more possible for us to talk about eliminating Aids, however our big challenge is the new infections,” said Mlisane.

Globally, 37 million people have HIV with only 15 million having access to medical care. In 2014 alone, two million people were newly infected. South Africa ranks number one in the top countries with the most HIV infected people, with Nigeria and India following behind.

Leading Aids scientist Professor Salim Abdool Karim from the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa) gave insight into the way forward in controlling and eventually eliminating HIV and Aids.

“We have achieved a great deal but we are not even half way there. There are still millions of people that need to be put on treatment,” said Karim.

Talking about the next step, Karim said that the teams have looked into creating a medicated ring that would be inserted into the vagina.

He added that they are looking at ways in which antibodies work and how to manipulate them, which will result in becoming one step closer to creating an HIV vaccine.