Safety, acceptability and adherence of dapivirine vaginal ring in a microbicide clinical trial conducted in multiple countries in sub-Saharan Africa

BACKGROUND: This was the first microbicide trial conducted in Africa to evaluate an antiretroviral-containing vaginal ring as an HIV prevention technology for women. Objectives The trial assessed and compared the safety, acceptability and adherence to product use of a 4-weekly administered vaginal ring containing the antiretroviral microbicide, dapivirine, with a matching placebo ring among women from four countries in sub-Saharan Africa. METHODS: 280 Healthy, sexually active, HIV-negative women, aged 18 to 40 years were enrolled with 140 women randomised to a dapivirine vaginal ring (25 mg) and 140 women to a matching placebo ring, inserted 4-weekly and used over a 12-week period. Safety was evaluated by pelvic examination, colposcopy, clinical laboratory assessments, and adverse events. Blood samples for determination of plasma concentrations of dapivirine were collected at Weeks 0, 4 and 12. Residual dapivirine levels in returned rings from dapivirine ring users were determined post-trial. Participant acceptability and adherence to ring use were assessed by self-reports. RESULTS: No safety concerns or clinically relevant differences were observed between the dapivirine and placebo ring groups. Plasma dapivirine concentrations immediately prior to ring removal were similar after removal of the first and third ring, suggesting consistent ring use over the 12-week period. No clear relationship was observed between the residual amount of dapivirine in used rings and corresponding plasma concentrations. Self-reported adherence to daily use of the vaginal rings over the 12-week trial period was very high. At the end of the trial, 96% of participants reported that the ring was usually comfortable to wear, and 97% reported that they would be willing to use it in the future if proven effective. CONCLUSIONS: The dapivirine vaginal ring has a favourable safety and acceptability profile. If proven safe and effective in large-scale trials, it will be an important component of combination HIV prevention approaches for women. Trial Registration NCT01071174