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Anti-AIDS Vaginal Ring Could Lower Risk, Study Begins in Africa

Update Date: Jul 25, 2012 11:15 AM EDT

Researchers are testing new ways to curb the HIV pandemic. Now, researchers are finding ways to target women and help lower their risk of contracting the virus.

U.S. researchers in Africa will test a vaginal ring that's inserted once a month and slowly oozes an anti-AIDS drug into the surrounding tissue to see if it will work against the deadly virus. The research was announced at the International AIDS Conference.

Researchers will test the ring on nearly 3,500 women in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe to see whether using the ring lowers women's risk of HIV infection by at least 60 percent.

Women already make up half of the 34.2 million people worldwide living with HIV, even more - 60 percent - in hard-hit Africa are women.

Researchers say they need options that fit readily into women's lives. The vaginal rings will be similar to those sold in the U.S., but will not contain birth control.

Previous research found an experimental anti-AIDS vaginal gel offered partial protection, but remembering to use it every time they have sex would be a hurdle for some women.

Researchers say the new vaginal-based protection should cause fewer side effects than pills, and early-stage studies of the ring found no problems. Animal studies show no sign that the ring would harm a fetus if a woman became pregnant while using it, she added.

Researchers hope to have approval to sell the ring in 2015.

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