Breakthrough: A major new tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS

Breakthrough: A major new tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS

A vaginal ring could prevent HIV infection in women.

A study has found a new tool in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

A vaginal ring coated with anti-AIDS medication reduced the risk of infection in women who inserted it once per month, according to an Associated Press report.

Two studies from Africa showed that the ring was safe, and that it cut HIV infections — although less than a third overall, a bit less than scientists were hoping for. However, it worked far better in women who were at least 25 years old and could be a vital new tool in the battle against HIV and AIDS.

Because older women performed a lot better, researchers are wondering whether the problem with younger women is that they didn’t know how to use it properly.

The development of a vaginal ring is important because it gives women a prevention tool that they can control, as opposed to depending on men to use protection.

The results are good enough that the nonprofit International partnership for Microbicides to seek regulator approval for wider use in Africa.

A total of 37 million people worldwide live with HIV, and about half of them are women, mostly in Africa.

Besides the vaginal ring, other options for preventing the spread of AIDS include a condom and a daily anti-AIDS pill to lower the risk.

“Women need a discreet, long-acting form of HIV prevention that they control and want to use,” Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said in a statement. “This study found that a vaginal ring containing a sustained-release antiretroviral drug confers partial protection against HIV among women in sub-Saharan Africa. Further research is needed to understand the age-related disparities in the observed level of protection.”

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