The International Partnership on Microbicides (IPM) has developed a new anti-HIV microbicidal vaginal Ring for women, in partnership with Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Baird’s CMC mapped stakeholders across four African countries to support access and inform future in-country implementation programs.
If you are sexually active, one of the best ways to protect yourself against HIV infection is to use a condom. Condoms have lots going for them – they are cheap, ubiquitous and have been widely accepted by men and women as an effective measure against both infection and conception for decades.
But for all their many benefits, condoms have one fundamental failing. They don’t protect women who are unable to insist on their use: with their partner, their client or their abuser.
And they don’t protect the women who need protection the most – those with the least power in sexual relationships.
It is a scientific fact that women are more susceptible to HIV than men are. Biologically they are vulnerable. Herpes infection – more common in women than men – increases susceptibility to HIV infection. Young women especially may have tears from rough sex that gives the virus ready access to their bloodstream. Girls and young women are more likely to be coerced into sex – making the use of a condom about as realistic as receiving flowers and a nice romantic dinner afterwards. And for many married women, control of their own bodies is sacrificed to the perceived right of their husbands for sex on demand. With that kind of power difference, a woman’s right to insist on a condom goes right out of the window.
Women need protection they can control — protection they can use regardless of the preferences or opinions of their partner. They need something easy and cheap to use that doesn’t get in the way, feel odd to their partner, smell, make a noise or otherwise give the game away. Something simple, easy and effective that they can use consistently throughout their lives.
Remarkably, this technology may be almost within reach. Microbicides effective against the HIV virus have been developed alongside new antiretrovirals. These microbicides break the virus’ DNA on contact. Gels and pessaries have been developed, but while these potentially give women control, they fail on usability.
The International Partnership on Microbicides (IPM) has been working with Janssen Pharmaceuticals to bring a new microbicide prevention technology for women to market. The technology, known as the Ring aims to put HIV-beating microbicide technology into a discrete, slow release vaginal ring that only needs replacing monthly.
IPM’s long-acting dapivirine vaginal ring would provide women with a practical method they can use to protect themselves against HIV for a month at a time. The monthly ring, which slowly releases the ARV drug dapivirine over time to protect against HIV, is currently in two Phase III trials, with efficacy results expected as soon as early 2016. You can read more about the ring on IPM’s website here.
Baird’s CMC and Hyderus have supported IPM with stakeholder mapping across four African nations. This work will provide essential information to establish working relationships with policy makers, regulators, distributors, civil society groups and health service providers in readiness for the introduction of the Ring. Using our network of expert consultants across Africa, IPM have had access to local information across four nations simultaneously with a reporting process that has fast tracked their implementation plans.
Working collaboratively with IPM Baird’s CMC’s in-country consultants have been able to support regional staff to get the right information from the right people and plan effectively for the introduction of this important technology. Our reach has made the world a little smaller, and achieving the goal of an AIDS free generation a little closer. But more than that, if Phase III trial results give the go-ahead, IPM will be ready to deliver the Ring.
For the first time this will give women and girls the power to protect themselves from HIV, without having to negotiate for the use of a condom.
 So fundamental to sexual health is the humble condom they’ve not changed much in fifty years, although that’s set to change as efforts are being made to bring them up to date using new materials and new designs.