Run rings around HIV
If you like it "put a ring on it" - but a ring containing the antiretroviral drug dapivirine might be an even better idea.
Vaginal silicone rings impregnated with dapivirine could reduce the chance of women contracting HIV by about 30%.
NGO International Partnership for Microbicides was told last week that the European Medicines Agency had begun reviewing its application to register a dapivirine-impregnated ring for use in African countries.
The NGO wants the ring approved as a preventative drug for women at high risk of contracting HIV - including women in South Africa.
The ring, inserted into the vagina, secretes the long-acting antiretroviral dapivirine. It needs to be changed monthly and cannot be felt by partners.
Trials took place in Malawi, Uganda and South Africa. Results, announced last year, showed the ring reduced the risk of getting HIV by 30%.
Although this might not sound highly effective, in one trial women had 60% less chance of getting HIV.
Women under 21 did not get any protection from the ring in one study. It is thought they didn't use it consistently enough for it to work.
The NGO said the application, lodged in Europe, was for approval for African countries.
"The application was submitted underarticle 58. This allows the European Medicines Agency, in co-operation with the World Health Organisation, to provide a scientific opinion on the safety, efficacy and quality of medicines marketed exclusively outside the EU - specifically in low- and middle-income countries."
NGO founder Dr Zeda Rosenberg said: "If approved, the ring could provide women with an urgently needed long-acting and discreet method they can initiate themselves to protect their health.
"Ending the epidemic will require multiple prevention options to meet women's needs."
Right now South African women can protect themselves from contracting HIV during sex only with female or male condoms.
"Women across sub-Saharan Africa lack the range of tools they need to stay HIV-free," said Rosenberg. The NGO said it would send its documents to the SA Health Product Regulatory Authority, which registers medicines, formerly known as the Medicines Control Council.
European approval for the ring, if granted, is expected in early 2019.
If the ring is approved, South African women will have one more way to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
South African women are at high risk of HIV and are twice more likely to contract HIV than men.