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HIV/AIDS Antiretroviral Vaginal Ring Set to Empower Women

HIV activist Tariro Kutadza wants more research done on young women's use of the vaginal ring to prevent infection. (S. Mohfu/VOA)

The promising results of the effectiveness of an antiretroviral drug, daprivine, for HIV prevention using a vaginal ring have excited participants attending a three-day conference on retroviruses and opportunistic infections, in Boston, USA.

The study conducted was by the University of Zimbabwe in collaboration with the University of California - San Francisco. It was conducted in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Uganda and South Africa.

More than 2,600 women participated in the study in the four countries with 628 of them being Zimbabweans. The findings indicate that the vaginal ring works.

Researchers are now tabulating these findings to ensure that the results go into the next phase which will include registration of the vaginal ring method.

Zimbabwe-based project director, Dr. Nyaradzo Mgodi who is attending the conference with some delegates from the Health Ministry, told Studio 7 there is still a lot of phases that the study and findings will have to go through before the vaginal ring is made available if it receives backing to have it rolled out.

Dr. Mgodi said the ring proved more effective in older women than the young generation. The research in Zimbabwe was titled ‘The Aspire Study’ while South African researchers called it ‘The Ring Study’.

"We are excited at the findings as it will empower women to make better decisions when it comes to their sexual health and prevention of the HIV/AIDS virus," said Dr. Mgodi.

"Under our study we found that the vaginal ring reduced the risk of women over the age of 21 getting HIV by 56 percent so the risk is more than half reduced so that's quite exciting and the icing on the cake is that the older the women is the better the risk reduction, and when we did a further analysis for women above 25 years it was further reduced to 61%," said Dr. Mgodi.

She said over the next six weeks there is going to be discussion on the way forward. The sponsors for the project include the National Institute of Health's AIDS department and the International Partnership For Microbicides who manufactured the ring will be involved in some discussions involving the study.

Dr. Mgodi said the product had not yet being registered by drug regulatory controls in both Zimbabwe and South Africa.

"But already our funders are busy putting together a dossier which will have all the drug information into a document which will be presented to the regulatory authorities in terms of registering the drug but there is still a bit of time if at all its rolled out it won't be tomorrow there are still several phases that need to be satisfied," noted Dr. Mgodi.

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