The results of an HIV research study known as ASPIRE were released on Monday, in Boston, at the 2016 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). The study indicated that women in the study who used a special drug-treated vaginal-ring (Dapivirine Microbicide Ring) once per month reduced their risk of contracting HIV by nearly a third (27%).
The study was conducted using some 2600 sexually active women, in the age-range of 18 to 45; the women resided in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. To determine the effectiveness of the vaginal ring, half of the women used the ring and half did not. The vaginal ring is designed to provide protection against HIV for at least a month, and is purported to be convenient and discreet to use.
The infection risk was reduced significantly more in the 21 and older age-group than in the under 21 age-group: the risk was cut by over a half in the older group and not at all in the younger group. Correlation studies show that the older women were more adherent to the ring-usage regiment than were the younger women. This factor, some researchers postulate, may account for the difference in the HIV-risk reduction between the two groups.
University of Pittsburgh Professor Sharon L. Hiller had this to say about ASPIRE and a related study call The Ring Study: “Both ASPIRE and The Ring Study have raised important scientific questions about the susceptibility of young women to HIV as well as their willingness to use prevention products. Further research can address these knowledge gaps. With the number of new infections in women each year, time is not on our side. We cannot lose momentum in the search for products to reduce the spread of HIV.”
Data from demographic studies of HIV show that in 2014 there were an estimated 36.9 million people across the globe living with the virus. A large majority of these victims (25.8 million) are inhabitants of Sub-Saharan Africa, and over half of them are women.