New research presented Monday at the International Microbicides Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., suggests that devices such as vaginal rings, vaginal tablets and dissolving films can effectively deliver drugs to help protect women from HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports. The research also suggests that such approaches may reduce the risk of drug resistance that often develops when taking pills to prevent infection. According to UNAIDS, more than 33 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS. More than half of those infected are women, most of whom receive the virus from husbands or steady partners and many of whom are unable to insist on condom use. Experts have been examining the use of microbicides — a gel, cream or vaginal ring — that women or men can use as a chemical barrier to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
One device presented on Monday was a flexible vaginal ring that for up to one month can continually deliver two drugs — Johnson & Johnson’s dapivirine and Pfizer’s maraviroc — to treat HIV. The device has yet to be tested in humans. Conference attendees also heard about a tablet designed to attach to the lining of the vagina and release maraviroc and an experimental drug called DS003 on a set schedule. Maryland-based ImQuest BioSciences also is testing the HIV drug IQP-0528 in a film form that is similar to a mouthwash strip. In addition, McGill University’s Susan Schader and colleagues said that tests of various microbicides showed that drug resistance emerged only if HIV was present first, suggesting that people already infected with HIV would develop drug-resistant infections through microbicide use.