It's often said that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has a woman's face. The proportion of women infected with HIV has been on the rise for a decade; in sub-Saharan Africa, women constitute 60 percent of people living with disease. While preventative drugs exist, they have often proven ineffective, especially in light of financial and cultural barriers in developing nations.
A new intravaginal ring filled with an anti-retroviral drug could help. Developed with support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases by Northwestern University visiting associate professor Patrick Kiser, the ring is easy to use, long lasting, and recently has demonstrated a 100 percent success rate protecting primates from the simian immunodeficiency virus (SHIV). The device will soon undergo its first test in humans.
"After 10 years of work, we have created an intravaginal ring that can prevent against multiple HIV exposures over an extended period of time, with consistent prevention levels throughout the menstrual cycle," said Kiser, an expert in intravaginal drug delivery who joined Northwestern from the University of Utah, where the research was conducted.
Kiser is a new faculty member in Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering's Department of Biomedical Engineering and visiting associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Feinberg School of Medicine.
The research was published September 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Previous studies have demonstrated that antiviral drugs can prevent HIV infection, but existing methods for delivering the drug fall short. Pills must be taken daily and require high doses; vaginal gels that must be applied prior to each sex act are inconvenient, yielding poor usage rates.
The new ring is easily inserted and stays in place for 30 days. And because it is delivered at the site of transmission, the ring - known as a TDF-IVR (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate intravaginal ring) - utilizes a smaller dose than pills.