South Africa, one of the countries in the world worst hit by HIV, will begin testing a new prevention method against this virus using a vaginal ring that delivers an antiretroviral drug, said the Global AIDS Fund on Friday.
Three organizations involved in the fight against AIDS in South Africa ordered 16,000 rings that should be used within a few months, according to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Inspired by the models used for female contraception, this silicone vaginal ring gradually diffuses an antiretroviral, dapivirine, and must be changed every month.
“We are convinced that this new ring can have a revolutionary effect in the prevention of HIV,” the human immunodeficiency virus that destroys the immune defenses and causes AIDS, explained the director of this fund, Peter Sands, in a statement.
The ring is an alternative to other preventive treatments, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which has revolutionized the fight against the AIDS virus in recent years.
This treatment involves taking a daily pill or receiving a monthly injection, a method that does not necessarily suit all recipients, explains the South African prevention organization.
“Women should have access to a range of safe and effective solutions, including the dapivirine ring, so they can adopt the one that best suits them,” said Ntombenhle Mkhize, president of the South African AIDS Foundation. .
In 2023, women and adolescent girls account for 53% of infections in the world, according to UNAIDS, the specific program of the United Nations regarding this disease.
South Africa has 13.7% HIV positive, representing one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world.
But more than 5.4 million out of a total estimated 8.2 million affected people are taking antiretrovirals. It is one of the most important HIV treatment programs in the world and has greatly reduced mortality.
Recent clinical trials have shown that the dapivirine vaginal ring, a device that has received the green light from the World Health Organization, reduces the risk of seroconversion (from being seronegative to seropositive) by 35%.
“We hope that many other countries will follow in South Africa’s footsteps,” said Peter Sands.
The device has also been approved and is being studied for launch in Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe.