Sexual Health news - HIV

New device may protect women against HIV

Vaginal rings are currently on the market as a contraceptive option for women. The device is inserted into the vaginal canal and releases a steady stream of hormones into the bloodstream. Now, scientists have taken this model and developed a ring that contains an HIV-fighting drug.

So far, this method has been tested on monkeys and the results were published in Science Translational Medicine. Researchers from the nonprofit organization Population Council found that the drug prevented the transmission of SHIV in macaques.

"This proof-of-concept study confirms that the investment in vaginal rings as a delivery system for HIV prevention is paying off," said Naomi Rutenberg, vice president and director of the Population Council's HIV and AIDS program. "Our findings show that rings can deliver an anti-HIV drug to prevent infection."

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are approximately 280,000 women living with HIV in the U.S., which makes up 25 percent of the country's total HIV-positive population. New developments, such as a preventative vaginal ring, can reduce the likelihood of at-risk females becoming infected. This includes individuals who are sexually active and don't use condoms for vaginal or anal sex, and injection-drug users.

The study's investigators gave the drug ring to 17 monkeys, out of which only two became subsequently infected. Removing it prior to exposure increased the likelihood of getting the virus. However, it did not make a difference how far in advance the ring was initially inserted.

Due to these significant findings, the U.S. National Institutes of Health approved a human trial involving nearly 3,500 women from five different countries.