• New HIV infections among adults and children reduced by 40 percent across the globe since the peak in 1997. While this is a good record, a recent analysis from UNAIDS indicate that the number of new HIV infections among adults remained the same for at least five years.

    Alarmingly, the infection rate among women and young girls are higher than that of their counterparts. In fact, the face of HIV/AIDS is young and female. The vulnerability of young girls and women is continuously translating into significant higher infection rates in Africa.

    According to a report by UNICEF, Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) are the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with a high number of young HIV-infected people between the ages of 15 and 24 out of all regions. “The total number of infected girls and young women that age is more than twice as high as among their male counterparts – 1.9 million compared to 780,000,” the report says.

    While condoms and other preventive drugs are effective at blocking HIV transmission, these methods are not only expensive in sub-Saharan Africa but also impractical for continual use. For many women, convincing their husbands or boyfriends to use condoms can be difficult and sometimes result in abuse.

    Zeda Rosenberg, the founder and CEO of the non-profit organization, International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) notes that “women do not have control over their lives sexually.” As such, many women become victims of rape within as well as outside a relationship.

    “Men either threaten violence if they are asked to use a condom or actually incur violence,” adds Rosenberg.

    With the new treatment, the vaginal ring developed by IPM, women can get a better solution to keep them safe from the virus. Since the traditional methods have failed in the past, it is high time that new strategies are employed to solve the epidemic.

    A new study conducted to ascertain the effectiveness of a vaginal ring in preventing HIV indicated that regular use of the ring could reduce the risk of contracting HIV by as much 75 percent. These results were released during the just-concluded 21st International Conference on Aids in Durban.

    How it works

    The two-inch ring is impregnated with the antiretroviral drug Dapivirine and is placed high inside a woman’s vagina. The ring is designed such that it steadily releases the medication over the course of the month.

    The ring is easy to insert giving women the liberty to do it by themselves. Additionally, it gives them a more discrete alternative to condoms. Being condoms are majorly dismissed for cultural and religious reasons, the ring is safer as neither the woman nor the man can feel it once it is correctly inserted.

    Commenting on the vaginal ring, Rosenberg noted that unlike condoms “no one knows you have it, and it doesn’t interfere with the sexual experience.” She added: “It can help a woman control her body and her health without necessarily challenging the man.”

    While this could be a great option for women, there is a huge concern when it comes to access to the ring. It is also important to educate girls and women on HIV transmission and prevention. UNICEF notes that young women and girls know less about the disease compared to men their age. Thus, education comes in handy in the prevention programs targeted to young people and women.