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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Women Report Vaginal Ring for Preventing HIV Had Little Effect On Sexual Intercourse

Two hands grip a plastic ring

Photo: International Partnership for Microbicides

Most women who used an experimental vaginal ring for HIV prevention report that the physical act of sex was largely unaffected by using the product, which is inserted monthly for continuous wear. This finding is among several insights gleaned about experiences of women who used the ring during the ASPIRE study, announced Oct. 18 at the HIV Research for Prevention meeting in Chicago.

ASPIRE evaluated whether the ring, which continuously releases the anti-HIV drug dapivirine, could safely reduce HIV infection among 2,629 women ages 18-45 years in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Among participants randomized to receive the ring, risk of HIV infection fell by 27 percent. A further analysis found that the ring reduced the risk of HIV infection by at least 56 percent among women who used it with greater frequency, and up to 75 percent or higher among those who used it consistently. Further exploration of the ring’s clinical potential began in July 2016 through the large-scale HOPE study. ASPIRE, HOPE and their ancillary studies were primarily funded by NIAID. The nonprofit International Partnership for Microbicides developed the dapivirine ring and supplied it for the studies.

“Women need an HIV prevention modality that offers safe, effective protection and is practical for use in their daily lives,” said NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci. “Women enrolled in the ASPIRE study reported that the experimental vaginal ring generally did not interfere with sexual intercourse, which is an encouraging sign that this product could appeal to a larger group of women at risk for HIV infection.”

The potential for women to suffer social harm and violence by sexual partners, along with other qualitative data from HIV prevention studies, suggest that some women may prefer methods of HIV protection undetectable by sexual partners. 

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Associate Editor: Carla Garnett
Carla.Garnett@nih.gov

Staff Writers:

Eric Bock
Eric.Bock@nih.gov

Dana Talesnik
Dana.Talesnik@nih.gov

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