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Researchers Developing Intravaginal Ring That Releases Anti-HIV Drugs To Prevent Infection

July 21, 2003

This article is part of The Body PRO's archive. Because it contains information that may no longer be accurate, this article should only be considered a historical document.

Scientists have developed a "potentially revolutionary device" that could allow women to protect themselves from contracting HIV from an HIV-positive sex partner, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. The device -- a flexible, slender 2.3-inch-wide intravaginal ring that time-releases anti-HIV drugs -- is inserted near the cervix similar to a diaphragm and could be worn continuously for six to 12 months. In acceptability tests, most users said that the device, once in place, could not be detected by either partner. The ring is being jointly developed by the International Partnership for Microbicides, whose research is being partially funded by a $110 million donation made last year by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and a team of 10 researchers led by Karl Malcolm, a chemist at Queen's University in Belfast, in conjunction with researchers at drug makers Janssen Pharmaceutica, Tibotec-Virco and Biosyn. Unpublished research on the ring was introduced at the 30th Annual Meeting & Exposition of the Controlled Release Society that began yesterday in Glasgow, Scotland. Researchers plan to test the ring in monkeys over the next 18 months to determine its effectiveness against HIV and will perform small human trials to test the device's safety. If successful, the trials will be expanded to hundreds or thousands of women. Researchers are seeking $40 to $60 million in funding for the trials from charitable organizations and the pharmaceutical industry. Robin Shattock, director of the research and advisory council for International Partnership for Microbicides, said, "At the moment, many women in the developing world have no choice about preventing infection. The whole concept is to empower women and provide them with some measure of providing protection [against HIV]" (MacPherson, Newark Star-Ledger, 7/20).

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