22 February 2016

Zimbabwe: HIV Research Results Out Today

Results of two studies that were conducted in Zimbabwe and other African countries to establish the safety and effectiveness of an antiretroviral drug, daprivine, for HIV prevention using a vaginal ring are out. The results will, however, be released today during the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), which takes place in Boston, USA.

The University of Zimbabwe in collaboration with the University of California-San Francisco (UZ-UCSF) project director, Dr Nyaradzo Mgodi - whose organisation conducted the research in Zimbabwe - yesterday said they were looking forward to the results as they believed they did justice to the study.

Dr Mgodi said all players including the participants to the studies were also committed, giving them confidence that they did their best.

"Whatever result is going to come out will be a good result because there was commitment from everyone who took part in the study," said Dr Mgodi.

She said even if the results failed to prove that daprivine could lower the risk of HIV transmission, the study would still provide answers to some of the researchers' key questions.

"We are therefore confident that we achieved our goal during the study and are now looking forward to the answers we sought," she said.

The studies popularly known as "A Study to Prevent Infection with a Ring for External Use (Aspire)" and "The Ring Study" started in August and April 2012 respectively.

Thousands of women from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia took part in the research, which involved use of a vaginal ring containing the ARV evaluating its ability to prevent new HIV infections and its long-term safety.

Vaginal rings are already used in many other countries to deliver hormonal contraception. The dapivirine ring therefore adapts to medical technology by using an ARV instead of contraception as a way to offer women potentially long-acting protection against HIV. Women can insert and replace the ring themselves.

Speaking at an Aspire update meeting held in Harare yesterday, Ms Sikhululiwe Ngwenya - who is a member of the Diamond people HIV and Aids youths group - said young women were eagerly looking forward to the results.

"We expect that the results will be positive and should that be the case, we expect the product to be rolled out as soon as possible and we also hope young women will be the first beneficiaries of the product but if the result is negative we still have hope in our researchers that each study brings them close to an effective product," said Ms Ngwenya, who is also a final year medical student with the University of Zimbabwe.


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