PARIS, FRANCE - Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infects new people every year. However, a new study shows that vaginal rings with Anti-HIV drugs can successfully prevent the infection. It was presented at the 9th annual IAS Conference on HIV Science on July 23 to July 26, 2017, at Paris, France.

What is HIV?

HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a retrovirus that infects humans through different modes of transmissions. It includes intimate sexual contact, contact with blood or other body fluids, and perinatally from mother to infant. It attacks the body’s immune system specifically the CD4 cells such as the T helper cells.

Over time, HIV will cause the immune system to decline and result in chronic infections. It eventually culminates to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Researcher Dr. Sharon Hillier and her colleagues reported in their study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that women account for more than half of the 35 million people who are infected with HIV type 1. Among these people, girls and women at the age of 15 to 24 account for the fifth of all new HIV infections worldwide. The majority of these women are from sub-Haran Africa where more or less 1000 people get infected every day.

In the recent press release published by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci revealed that the HIV prevention needs of adolescents are different from those of the adults.

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Hence, Science and the health community are asking for new studies that will address this problem and help the young ones to prevent contracting the infection.

Preliminary study for anti-HIV drugs conducted

Dr. Hillier and her colleagues conducted a new study to address the existing problem involving HIV and AIDS. It was the first medication for the prevention of contracting HIV specifically addressed to young people. It was even presented at the 9th annual IAS Conference on HIV Science in Paris on July 23 to July 26, 2017.

In their research, they studied healthy, sexually active, nonpregnant, HIV-1 seronegative woman from 18 to 45 years old. They conducted their research in 15 different sites in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe from August 2012 to June 2015.

The researchers used antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV-1 infection. It includes Tenofovir and Dapivirine. Their study shows that antiretroviral Tenofovir can protect some clinical trials against HIV-1. However, adherence to Tenofovir-containing pills and vaginal gels was low.

Moreover, it doesn’t show protection from infection.

Vaginal rings with Dapivirine

Given the unpromising results with Tenofovir-based prophylaxis, the researchers tried longer-acting options that women can also control. They particularly used vaginal rings that offer a sustained and controlled release of medications. Moreover, it can provide a long-acting protection against HIV with a reduced systemic exposure.

The proponents of the study particularly used the anti-HIV drug Dapivirine. It is a non-nucleoside HIV-1 reverse-transcriptase inhibitor that exhibits antiretroviral activity against a wide range of HIV subtypes.

The result of the study shows that the genital biopsy tissue samples of the women are substantially less susceptible to HIV-1 when challenged ex vivo. It also revealed that a monthly vaginal ring with Dapivirine shows successful results. According to Washington Times, the study has also demonstrated that the vaginal ring is safe in U.S. teens. Hence, Dapivirine anti-HIV drug in a vaginal ring is a safe and acceptable method of lessening the risks of adolescents in contracting the HIV infection.

There are now plans to test the vaginal ring in African teenagers. In line with this, Dr. Hillier is set to conduct a new REACH study later this year. If this method gets regulatory approval, it will be the first method for women’s HIV infection prevention.