Hear ye, hear ye! A brand new intravaginal ring has been in development by scientists at Northwestern University and the announcement earlier this month has caused quite the stir.
The goal of the team of the 10 scientists responsible for the invention of these device was to create an insertable device which would protect against both pregnancy and HIV transmission. And hallelujah, with a little financial backing, they were successful. The project’s research and development has been funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Eastern Virginia Medical School.
The Intravaginal Ring
This dual reservoir polyurethane ring is made from circular shaped hollow tubing which contains two unique chemicals that leach out very slowly, over a three month period of time. Normally, when you hear about leaching chemicals, it ain’t good. However, in this case, these leaching chemicals are potentially life saving. Throughout the three months it is inserted into the vagina, it releases levonorgestrel, which is a contraceptive and tenofovir, which protects against HIV. This means the wearer of the ring is protected from both HIV and pregnancy for a 90 day time span. You may already be familiar with the Mirena® intrauterine system, which lasts up to 5 years. Mirena® emits the same contraceptive drug, but is not at all effective against HIV.
If the cost is low enough, this ring could change and improve the lives of sexually active people all across the world. This is especially true of people living in third world nations or in places where people do not have access to condoms and other forms of contraceptives or for people who live in high risk HIV populations, such as residents of Zimbabwe (14.9% of the population has HIV) and Botswana (23.4% of the population has HIV).
This ring system represents a significant advancement in vaginal drug delivery technology. This ring could be the first in a series of multipurpose drug delivery rings, of which could eventually protect against other unwanted consequences of intercourse. The future of intravaginal rings could eventually improve the duration and quality of life for millions of people.
The Downside: Ring Ding Dong
- Although this new product does not contain any animal products, it was tested on animals and therefore may not be the best contraceptive choice for vegans and animal activists. Both rabbits and primates were used in its development phase.
- I can’t help but wonder how comfortable this ring is for women to wear for 3 months straight.
- Storage could also be an issue in tropical climates, as the researchers only simulated storage of the device at 37 degrees Celsius for 5 years. Other conditions or lengths of time may or may not prove to be detrimental to the effectiveness of the ring.
- An unfortunate side effect of wearing the ring may be a recklessness regarding the contraction of other detrimental STDs. This particular ring does not provide any protection against any other STDs such as: HPV, HSV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, etc. So, even with the use of this ring, condoms are still a necessary precaution when it comes to preventing against the spread of these harmful and sometimes lifelong sexually transmitted diseases and infections.