Uganda has been listed among the first seven countries that will benefit from the roll out of the vaginal ring used in prevention against HIV, the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) has revealed.
IPM’s external relations director Dr. Leonard Solai told journalists that other countries to benefit are Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa.
Recently the vaginal ring which has been undergoing trials was given a nod by the European Medicines Agency to be used as an HIV prevention method by women who may engage in risky sex.
The ring which contains Dapivirine, an anti-retroviral drug, is inserted in the vagina and left there for 28 days. During this time, the ring continuously releases the antiretroviral drug to prevent infection.
According to Dr. Sylivia Kushemererwa, a senior researcher at the Medical Research Council, while the ring is not yet rolled out for general use in many countries, it’s recommended for use by women who can’t access oral PrEP.
The ring has undergone three trials to determine its safety and efficacy. The trials include the ASPIRE and The Study drug trial that involved 4,500 women from Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa. The trial in Uganda was conducted at sites in Masaka and Kampala, one led by the International Partnership on Microbicides and the other by the Microbicide Trials Network-MTN.
At the end of the studies, scientists established that among women who appeared to use the ring most regularly, the HIV risk was cut by more than half across all analyses and in some by 75 percent or more. The results from exploratory analyses of data suggest that even higher levels of protection can be achieved with regular and consistent use.
In Uganda, Dr. Joshua Musinguzi who heads the AIDs Control Programme in the Ministry of Health says the ring is a welcome method especially with adherence to oral drugs is a challenge to even those that are positive.
He predicts more women are likely to use the ring effectively and Kushemererwa says in the studies, they saw people experience a few side effects but she adds that the product is generally safe.
However, before it’s approved for use in Uganda, it will go through safety tests by the National Drug Authority.