Hope for the Future: My Experience With the Dapivirine Ring

We spoke to Akhona Gxarisa, a 27-year-old primary school teacher in Cape Town, South Africa who participated in the Ring Study and DREAM. She tells us about her experience in the clinical trials and what potential approval of the dapivirine ring would mean to her and her community.

My community is small, but HIV/AIDS is a big issue here. I joined The Ring Study because I wanted to know more and the research sounded interesting. The ring was easy to use and nobody can see that it’s inserted except your partner, if you want to tell him. 

The trial was a friendly zone—there were always counselors and other staff to talk to if we had problems. I could go for contraceptives and there wasn’t a crowd looking at what I was doing. There were events like movie nights, and we could talk about problems with the ring, a partner, or other problems. And even though we were different ages, we could discuss without age restricting us. Some talked about marriages, others about partners or baby daddies, but we did not judge each other. We treated each other more like a family. I think that’s why some of us get together even to this day, five years later! 

We heard that the ring was effective, but then some time went by. When we later heard that the ring got a positive opinion, I was over the moon! Even as I’m sitting here, I still can’t believe it.  

If the ring is approved, I hope my community is the first to get it. Right now, you could get raped or you don’t know a partner’s status. So there should be workshops so people can hear about HIV prevention and the ring. They should know that it wouldn’t be approved if it hadn’t been tested, and they should know how to use it. Let them hear from someone who’s actually used it. For example, some might be worried whether they will still be able to conceive after using the ring. I’m living proof that it’s possible, as I had my baby in 2019. 

The positive opinion gives me hope for the future, and I hope to see the ring approved in South Africa. I am grateful for the opportunity to be engaged in The Ring Study and to share it with the world.