National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) scientists will test how safe and flexible vaginal rings are among women in their new study before lacing them with microbicides to prevent HIV infection. NARI will screen 150 women before inserting the non-medicated vaginal ring to check if it can be used safely and continuously before it can be developed as a tool to protect them from HIV.
Three sites have been identified for the clinical trial planned by the Microbicide Trials Network and funded by the US-based National Institutes of Health. A total of 150 women will be enrolled at the clinical trial site at NARI in Pune and 102 at University of Alabama,and Bronx Lebanon hospital in the US,Dr R S Paranjape,director,NARI told Newsline.
This is perhaps the first such study that looks at non-medicated vaginal rings as an important tool to be eventually used for delivering microbicides. Clinical trials with topical microbicides such as vaginal gels are underway. These are applied vaginally to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. However,according to Dr A R Risbud,Scientist F at NARI,there are issues of adherence. The gels are used at the time of intercourse and there are concerns like leakage of the product or extra wetness,says Risbud.
This ring is not a contraceptive,is non-medicated and made of silicone elastomer. It will be inserted after women are screened for infections. Once HIV and Reproductive Tract Infections are ruled out,the study will commence for a period of three months to check the acceptability of the rings among women.
According to Neelam Joglekar,social scientist with the trial,vaginal rings could give women the power to protect themselves effectively from HIV. Initially,we will check if they can use it during menstruation and intercourse or whether they find it uncomfortable while doing household chores that require squatting. Once they are found to be safe,they can be used as a vehicle for delivering potent anti-retroviral drugs into the vagina.
Globally,women comprise half of the 34 million people living with HIV,according to National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).Young women are at the risk of acquiring HIV through unprotected sex with an infected partner and a ring can be developed to help them protect themselves against the infection,scientists said. While behaviour modification (abstinence and monogamous relationship) and condoms are the only preventive measures at present,there is an urgent need to develop methods that can be controlled by women for protection against HIV,Paranjape said.