A company from South Africa plans to produce vaginal rings that can prevent HIV and, according to AIDS experts, this could lead to lower costs and increased accessibility in the future.
On Thursday, the Population Council stated that Kiara Health, based in Johannesburg, will begin manufacturing silicone rings within the next few years. They predict that 1 million rings could be produced each year. These rings release a medication that aids in preventing HIV infections and have been approved by approximately twelve countries and the World Health Organization.
The rights to the rings, which are currently manufactured by a Swedish company, are owned by the nonprofit council. There are currently 500,000 rings available to women in Africa, provided at no cost thanks to donations.
According to Ben Phillips, a representative for the U.N. AIDS organization, the benefit of the ring is that it allows women to use it discreetly without anyone else’s awareness or permission.
According to him, this offers an alternative for women whose partners refuse to use a condom or allow them to take oral preventive HIV medicines.
According to statistics from the World Health Organization, HIV continues to be the primary cause of death for women of childbearing age in Africa, with 60% of new infections occurring in women.
The ring gradually administers the medication dapivirine for a duration of one month. At the moment, it is priced between $12 and $16; however, it is predicted that the cost will decrease as it becomes more widely manufactured in Africa. There are also efforts being made to create a version that lasts for three months, which would further reduce the annual expense.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised the use of the ring as an extra measure for women who are at a high risk of contracting HIV. Regulatory bodies in multiple African countries, such as South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, have also approved its use. WHO based its recommendation on two extensive studies which showed a 33% decrease in HIV transmission with the use of the ring. Other research has even suggested a reduction of over 50% in the risk of acquiring HIV.
During the largest AIDS conference of last year, protestors stormed the stage and urged donors to purchase silicone rings for women in Africa.
The Health and Science Department of the Associated Press is assisted by the Science and Educational Media Group of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all of its content.