An Indian American endocrinologist has helped develop a vaginal ring that would prevent conception and transmission of HIV infection, by releasing multiple types of non-hormonal agents and microbicides.
Worldwide, there are about five million new infections and three million deaths every year caused by HIV/AIDS alone.
If proven successful in future clinical trials, the vaginal ring could empower women to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The ring may also someday represent a novel method to prevent STDs for those with aversion to currently available methods, with hormonally derived active agents, or with allergies to latex condoms.
"This device is a new approach to birth control, because it avoids the long-term use of hormonal methods that have been associated with increased risk of certain cancers," said Brij Saxena, study co-author and professor of reproductive biology and endocrinology at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC).
"At the same time, this is the first device to simultaneously offer the possibility to prevent unintended pregnancy and HIV transmission," said Saxena, who did his B.Sc, M.Sc and Ph.D from Lucknow University (India) in 1949, 1951 and 1954, respectively.
"No one has ever conquered a viral epidemic with treatment, so prevention is the most effective option. Ideally, an HIV vaccine is the most desirable method, but that is not foreseeable in the near future," explained Jeffrey Laurence, study co-author and physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/WCMC.
"The next best thing would be something that would prevent infection and put the power in the susceptible female partner's control. That's the potential a device such as this can offer."
The vaginally inserted ring is incorporated with multiple antiviral drugs that prevent HIV infection and are time-released over a period up to 28 days, said a WCMC release.
"The compounds in the device are natural materials that are already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in humans," explained Saxena.