DURBAN, South Africa, July 18 (UPI) -- A drug-eluting ring significantly reduced women's risk of acquiring HIV in early tests, suggesting women may have a better, easier option to prevent infection from the disease.
The monthly dapivirine ring reduced the risk of HIV spread by more than half in testing with high-risk women in Africa, according to new data announced ahead of the AIDS 2016 international conference, increasing hopes for two new studies with the device expected to start in the next few months.
The new data follows early results from The Ring Study and ASPIRE trials, both of which were conducted in Africa and lowered HIV infection rates to 31 percent in one study and 27 percent in the other. The new data comes from further analysis of the studies' results.
The ring, developed by the International Partnership for Microbicides, was designed to help women better protect themselves against acquiring HIV, and researchers think if combined with the efficacy of PrEP, spread of HIV and AIDS could be reduced even further.
For the two studies, researchers recruited 1,959 women for The Ring Study in South Africa and Uganda and 2,629 in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. All the women were HIV-negative and between the ages of 18 and 45.
Initially, researchers saw reductions in HIV spread among women in the studies by just under one-third, though continued analysis of study data showed women who used the monthly ring with consistency had their risk of HIV acquisition cut by at least 56 percent. Women who used the ring "the most" saw a reduced risk of 75 percent, the researchers report.
Researchers currently have two studies preparing to start -- HIV Open-label Prevention Extension, or HOPE, and Dapivirine Ring Extended Access and Monitoring, or DREAM -- each of which will re-enroll women from the previous two studies who did not acquire HIV to continue testing the efficacy of the ring.
IPM plans to submit study results to regulatory bodies sometime in mid-2017, with the potential for the dapivirine ring to be available in some countries by 2018, the company says.
"We are encouraged by these new analyses, which further support that the dapivirine ring could be an important option for women who urgently need new tools to protect themselves from HIV," Dr. Zeda Rosenberg, founder and chief executive officer of IPM, said in a press release.