Anti-HIV vaginal ring study launched

2010-07-23 00:00

DAYS after the announcement of breakthrough results on an anti-HIV microbicidal gel, another study — of a vaginal ring containing an HIV drug — was revealed in Ladysmith.

The Ladysmith-based Qhakaza Mbokodo Research Clinic under the guidance of the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) is conducting a study on a vaginal ring containing 25 mg of the anti-retroviral (ARV) drug, dapivirine.

The drug inhibits the replication of HIV.

IPM is a U.S.-based non-profit organisation that develops microbicides based on the same types of potent ARVs used in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

It was established in 2002.

The head of research at Qhakaza Mbokodo, Dr Phillip Kotze, said the clinic has been involved in microbicide studies since 2007.

The vaginal ring study was initiated in May 2010.

“The study will undergo three clinical phases, which could translate to about three years if everything goes according to plan …

“We give [participants] extensive counselling on contraceptives, condom usage and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases pre- and post-HIV testing.”

A doctor will monitor their health and any side-effects, Kotze added.

The ring is inserted in the same way as the female condom.

Currently the study has 49 female participants aged between 18 and 40.

The women are all on a stable form of contraception, are HIV- negative and are not breast-feeding.

IPM’s external relations adviser, Leonard Solai, said women lack a discreet method to protect themselves from infection.

He said the ring has tremendous promise because it could offer discreet, effective and sustained protection against HIV infection.

“Due to a mix of biology and culture, women are more susceptible to HIV infection than men.

“Safe and effective microbicides could provide women with a powerful new tool to protect themselves from HIV and would complement existing prevention methods,” Solai said in a statement.

Women will be randomly assigned to use either the dapivirine ring or a placebo ring for comparison purposes, and will be instructed to return to their research centres and replace the ring every month during the study.

The gel has to be applied before and after sex, whereas the ring will remain in place.

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