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Developments in Female-Controlled HIV Prevention

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Hope everyone had a productive International Woman's Day! While you no doubt discovered the many ways that people around the world celebrated, including the awesome release of Planninctorock's record Misogyny Drop Dead, one item that is worth celebrating is the recent development in the battle against AIDS. The apparent cure of a baby born with HIV made international headlines around the world, sparking speculation that a more widespread cure might not be too far off. However, experts agree that while science has come closer to this triumph, we shouldn't be too quick to celebrate, nor lay off the initiatives that work to prevent the virus altogether.

In honour of IWD, the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) launched a short video on the subject that's well worth a watch. The short includes interviews with some of the people fighting the battle against this epidemic who stress the need for female-controlled HIV prevention tools.

Real Voices: Advancing HIV Prevention and Sexual and Reproductive Health for Women from IPMglobal on Vimeo.

One of the health tools that IPM is currently working on is an ARV-based vaginal microbicide ring which would ultimately provide a more discreet option for women to protect themselves from HIV prevention (it's currently in Phase III of its testing; results are expected in 2015). According to IPM's CEO, Dr. Zeda Rosenberg, the ring "slowly releases the ARV drug dapivirine over time to provide monthly protection against HIV." And if it's found to be safe and effective then, "IPM will seek regulatory approval and help ensure women in developing countries have access to it as soon as possible".

Recently, we had a chance to ask Dr. Rosenberg a few questions on the video, Real Voices, and the continuing fight against HIV:

How have researchers, like the ones featured in Real Voices, reacted to the recent development of the baby who was apparently cured of HIV?

Any news of a potential cure for HIV is reason to celebrate and commit to ongoing investment in research. This news is heartening, and more research is needed to understand its implications for the HIV prevention and treatment fields.

Forbes recently published a piece on another aspect that's critical to ending the AIDS epidemic. Any thoughts?

Mr. Sidibé's piece in Forbes highlights a critical element of the fight against HIV -- ending violence against women. As he notes, women often are unable to protect themselves from HIV for various reasons, including the threat of sexual violence. Ending violence and discrimination against women is not only a human rights imperative, but also a public health priority because it fuels the HIV epidemic. While microbicides won't end the violence that far too many women face, discreet, female-controlled, and long-acting prevention tools may help give women the ability to protect themselves from HIV when negotiating for condom use isn't practical or possible.

What can readers do to help?

Education is a powerful tool. IPM encourages readers to share Real Voices with family, friends, and colleagues and learn more about HIV prevention research by visiting the website, Twitter, and Facebook pages.

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