A South African company starts making vaginal rings that protect against HIV

A South African company starts making vaginal rings that protect against HIV

A South African company will manufacture vaginal rings that protect against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which AIDS experts say will eventually make them cheaper and more accessible.

A South African company will manufacture vaginal rings that protect against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which AIDS experts say will eventually make them cheaper and more accessible.

Johannesburg-based Kiara Health will begin manufacturing silicone rings in the next few years, the Population Council announced on Thursday, estimating that one million rings could be produced annually. The devices release a drug that helps prevent HIV infection and is licensed by nearly a dozen countries and the World Health Organization.

The non-profit council owns the rights to the rings, which are now manufactured by a Swedish company. Currently about 500,00 rings are available to women in Africa for free, purchased by donors.

Ben Phillips, spokesman for the United Nations AIDS agency, said the advantage of the ring is that it gives women the freedom to use it without anyone else’s knowledge or consent.

“For women whose partners don’t use condoms or allow them to take oral (HIV preventative) medications, this gives them another option,” he said.

HIV remains the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age in Africa, and 60% of new infections affect women, according to World Health Organization figures.

The ring releases dapivirine in slow doses over a month. Its price is currently between $12 and $16, but experts expect the price to fall once it is widely produced in Africa. The developers are also working on a version that will last up to three months, which would also reduce the annual cost.

The World Health Organization has recommended the use of the ring as an additional tool for women at “high risk of HIV infection,” and regulators in more than a dozen African countries, including South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe, have given it the green light. The World Health Organization cited two advanced studies in its approval, saying fenugreek reduces women’s chances of contracting HIV by about a third, while other research has suggested the risk can be reduced by more than 50%.

Last year, activists took to the stage in protest during the largest AIDS meeting last year, calling on donors to buy silicone rings for African women.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media Group. AP is solely responsible for all content.

(Tags for translation)HIV and AIDS

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