By Catherine Murombedzi
Good news on HIV prevention for females is on the horizon. The virus is set to be ring-fenced off right as it is off-loaded on entry.
How? The virus is captured and destroyed by a new innovation, the Dapivirine Ring which releases anti-HIV medication. The ring is inserted into the vagina, knocking off the virus for 28 days before replacement is necessary.
Made of flexible silicone matrix polymer, the ring is user-friendly.
Containing some anti-retroviral (ARV), the ring ushers in choice to females. In the past, clients intending to prevent acquiring HIV had to take daily oral tablets. The tablets taken as Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) was a burden to those not used to taking pills.
Hence with the ring, pill-burden for females will be a thing of the past.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recently announced exciting news in the response to ending AIDS. Women now have choice in HIV prevention.
The ring was developed in partnership with the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM).
The ring comes as a one size fits all, is flexible and for 28 days offers protection before the need for replacement.
“The first microbicide to be submitted for regulatory approval, the dapivirine vaginal ring, developed by the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) for HIV prevention, received a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in July of 2020,” EMA announced.
The ring has no side effect on the rest of the body, hence its limited effects was a plus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is now working on the guidelines for use. In Zimbabwe, no medication is used before the local medical approving authority Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) gives a nod or declines.
Speaking to health journalists in a webinar over the weekend, local researcher of repute, Dr Nyaradzo Mgodhi gave insight into the microbicide.
Zimbabwe took part in the research. The University of Zimbabwe College Health Science Clinical Trials Research Centre head scientist, Dr Nyaradzo Mgodi, who is also Africa’s chairperson was pleased to have been part of the historic process.
“The Dapivirine Ring has liberated women in preventing them from HIV, as most women can’t negotiate for sex. A total of 600 females in the local trials found the ring easy to use. In Zimbabwe we welcome this important option for women who bear the burden of the HIV epidemic,” said Dr Mgodi.
“The ring does not protect women from sexually-transmitted infections and getting pregnant. One has to continue taking prevention measures for those. So the ring will be used along with condoms, injectables, contraception pills or long-term pregnancy prevention measures used before. The ring will fill the important gap for women who are unable to use daily oral PrEP.”
Poverty usually makes females vulnerable to HIV. It is further complicated in transactional and intergenerational sex, where the power for safe sex is eroded, child marriages and a host of relationships that expose women to partner violence. Abuse will now come to an end.
HIV infections in Zimbabwe affect women more as compared to men. It is estimated that 1,3 million people live with HIV in Zimbabwe. Of these 200 000 are children.
It is estimated 730 000 women live with HIV. This gives HIV a face of a woman.
In 2018, 19 000 women were infected compared to 14 000 men. (UNAIDS 2018). Most women have no power to demand safe sex from their partners.
With 10 years remaining on the goal to end HIV by 2030, the new infections reveal the trajectory is off target.
With such innovations, the Dapivirine ring can close the gap.Science and research is not sleeping. HIV infections in women will be a thing of the past.