Scientists and Researchers are one trial closer to launching a woman’s first initiated HIV prevention option, the Dapivirine Ring. Years of research and three clinical trials are delivering the exciting reality of a product that a woman is in control of. Already, the Dapivirine Ring has received approval from World Health Organisation (WHO).
The ring which is developed by the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) is made of a flexible silicone matrix polymer contains the ARV Dapivirine, an NNRTI, which is slowly released over the course of a month. The ring delivers Dapivirine directly at the site of potential infection, with low systemic absorption. Women insert the flexible, long-acting ring themselves into the vagina and replace it every month.
Dr Nelly Mugo, while addressing participants in an event where young women and stakeholders met to discuss the innovation praised the Ring. A researcher with Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Dr Mugo endorsed the product as an effective one, and was happy that women have yet another option in the basket of HIV prevention initiatives. “Africa remains hard hit by HIV, with young people accounting for half of all Africa’s infections. Women continue to be more vulnerable because of many factors such as their anatomy, social, cultural and even economic setbacks. That there is something which adolescents and young women can use without having to negotiate with anybody in order to protect themselves is a game changer in the world of HIV prevention research,” said Dr Mugo.
Maryann Mburu, WACI Health CEO, told the participants that the Dapivirine Ring when approved would go long way in helping prevent potential infections.
“At the moment, we risk reversing gains made in combating new HIV infections, if the numbers from UNAIDS is anything to by,” she said, adding that 275 girls are getting infected every week in Kenya. “These numbers are alarming and if there is anything we can do to stop the spread, then we must,” she added. Calling on all stakeholders to join hands and ensure that the Ring gets approved in Kenya, Mburu said that as much as the Ring does not deliver 100 percent protect from HIV infection, our adolescents and young women were better off with the Ring option than with nothing.
Same was echoed by Lydia Tuitai from Pharmacy and Poisons Board, who broke down the process of having a drug registered in Kenya. Ephasising on the need to ensure due process at all stages to ensure safety and efficacy, Lydia said once the Ring meets the board requirement, they would be excited to approve the Dapivirine Ring.
Maureen Inimah, a program officer at National AIDS and STD Control Programme (Kenya) (NASCOP) said that they were excited and open to more options that will help women protect themselves against HIV infections. NASCOP, which operates as a unit within the Ministry of Health and is mainly involved with technical co-ordination of HIV and AIDS programmes in Kenya promised to scale up youth friendly facilities so that when products such as the Dapivirine Ring finally comes in the country, Kenya’s adolescents and young women will find sensitized work force in the clinics. “In 2010, only seven percent of Kenya’s health facilities were youth friendly. This has in a way hindered effective service delivery to the same demography. Towards this, we are doing all we can to improve these numbers and to empower the service providers on how to interact with the young women seeking services from the clinics,” said Maureen.