EmpoweRING: Prevention by Choice

EmpoweRING: Prevention by Choice

Project

Through the EmpoweRing project we advocate for accelerated approval and uptake of the Dapivirine vaginal ring as an HIV prevention tool for women and girls in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. The Dapivirine ring is the first discreet, women-controlled, long acting HIV prevention product. Running throughout 2022, the project will be implemented by International Community of Women living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA) and partners using the Youth Advocates model. This model seeks to empower and build resilience among adolescent girls and young women in addressing HIV needs.

Project details

Time frame
01 October 2021 - 31 December 2022
Budget
€ 200,474
Active in
Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda

Objectives

To contribute to a reduction in new HIV infections among women and girls in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda through advocacy for approval and rollout of the Dapivirine ring; awareness raising and demand creation among women and girls for this new HIV prevention tool.

Community groups

All women and girls of all ages in their diversity across Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda

Background

In Sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls accounted for 65% of all new HIV infections in 2020 (UNAIDS). There is therefore an urgent need to explore all possible ways of preventing new HIV infections. Since November 2020, the Dapivirine ring has been recommended by WHO. This followed the positive scientific opinion from the European Medicines Agency on the use of the ring for HIV prevention, which was granted in July 2020.

East Africa was among the regions where the study on the Dapivirine Ring was conducted and countries such as Uganda and Kenya had demonstrated willingness to be among the “early adapters”. However, to date the countries haven’t formally approved the Dapivirine Ring as a prevention tool. Women-led advocacy is needed to accelerate the approval and roll-out of the the Dapivirine Ring, and active community leadership is urgent to support increased awareness and demand creation for the Ring. In addition, the regulatory authorities such as National Drug Authority have not been adequately engaged and provided with adequate information to expedite the approval process. Lack of policy drive and adequate communication strategy on the new technology continue to hamper the rollout and this puts the target communities at the losing end.
 

Young woman holding the Dapivirine ring in her hands
Courtesy of IPM

"For young women, the ring should be for free"

Shakirah Namwanje from Uganda is an advocate on a mission: fast approval and roll out of the Dapivirine vaginal ring for HIV prevention in Uganda. We spoke with her about what is needed for accelerated implementation, the role of the government and of civil society, how lessons from PrEP support the process, and her personal motivation to do what she does.

Shakirah Namwanje Shakirah Namwanje

Expected results

  • Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda include the Dapivirine ring as a tool in HIV prevention programming
  • Financial resources are allocated for the implementation of the Dapivirine Ring
  • Guidelines and other relevant materials are available to support the roll out
  • Adolescent girls and young women are educated on and aware of the Dapivirine ring
  • Women and girls in are capacitated to demand availability of the Dapivirine ring
  • The Dapivirine ring is widely available and women and girls have access to it

Female-controlled preventive tools are critical in HIV prevention. We know this won’t just come on a silver plate, so let us join hands to demand for their access and utilization. We owe it to the young generation

- Lillian Mworeko, Executive Director ICWEA

Tapping from existing experience

Adolescent girls and young women are more at risk of HIV and should be at the fore-front of demanding for approval and usage of the Dapivirine ring. The project builds on experiences and lessons learnt from the recent concluded Girls Take Lead and PITCH projects using the Young Advocates model. This model seeks to empower and build resilience among girls and young women in addressing HIV needs through intensive community mobilization, advocacy training, and on-going support.

Partnership and collaborations

For the past 15 years, ICWEA has been at the forefront in advancing SRHR for women and girls and advocating for female-controlled preventive tools. ICWEA was part of the Dapivirine Ring Study Team and ICWEA’s Executive Director is currently a board member of IPM (International Partnership for Microbicides, who developed the Dapivirine Ring).

As implementing partner for EmpoweRing, ICWEA will work with IPM, AVAC, National AIDS Council, Ministries of Health, National Drug Authorities, Adolescent Girls and Young Women Networks and Organisations and like-minded CSOs.

About Dapivirine vaginal ring

The Dapivirine ring is the first long-acting, women-controlled prevention tool. Women could use it discreetly at times in their lives when they may be unable to negotiate condom use or to consistently use daily oral PrEP. The monthly ring is an important new option for women, who bear the greatest burden of HIV and AIDS. Developed by IPM, the Dapivirine ring is the first to adapt a medical technology commonly used to deliver hormones to women to instead deliver an ARV drug to prevent HIV. Dapivirine ring safely reduces HIV infection overall by half (modelling data).

No single HIV prevention method will meet the needs of all people at risk, so a range of options is needed to curb the HIV epidemic
- Veronica Exaud Lyimo, ICW Tanzania Chapter

Interested in this project?

Do you want to know more about the EmpoweRing project, or do you have ideas and experiences you want to share with us? We will be happy to hear from you! Feel free to contact Nienke Westerhof, senior project officer youth projects.

Nienke Westerhof Nienke Westerhof

Partners

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