A monthly vaginal ring is one significant step closer to potentially becoming a new HIV prevention method for cisgender women in sub-Saharan Africa, who face persistently high rates of HIV infection but have few options to protect themselves.

After 16 years of research and development, the ring recently received a positive scientific opinion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on its use by women, ages 18 and older, who live in low- and middle-income countries. This achievement was made possible by a web of global partners – including investigators from the University of Washington School of Public Health – who led, conducted and participated in research submitted to the EMA as part of the application process.

The ring, which the women can insert and replace on their own once a month, slowly releases an antiretroviral drug called dapivirine into the vagina when it is worn. The only other HIV prevention approaches approved so far are condoms, which many women find difficult to negotiate with male sexual partners, and the daily use of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP pills. If approved, the dapivirine ring would be the first biomedical prevention method specifically for cisgender women (women whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth) and the first long-acting method.

Read the entire story at UW School of Public Health. Jared Baeten, Connie Celum, Kenneth Ngure, and Barbra Richardson are included.