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New Device Protects Against Pregnancy, STIs

Researchers at Northwestern University have created a new method of contraception that also protects against two sexually transmitted infections—HIV and herpes—and plan to enter clinical trials soon. The device is a circular intravaginal ring that contains medications that protect against pregnancy and these viral infections for 90 days at a time.

The thin, flexible ring contains two medications and is 5.5 centimeters in diameter. The first medication is the hormone levonorgestrel, which is used in the Mirena IUD and in some birth control pills. A type of progesterone, levonorgestrel prevents the ovary from releasing an egg, prevents fertilization of an egg by a sperm, and thins the lining of the uterus which can lead to lighter periods or the absence of periods.

The second medication is tenofovir, which is an antiviral drug commonly used to treat HIV infections by blocking the replication of the HIV virus. The hope is through the use of this ring, women can reduce unwanted pregnancies as well as prevent HIV and herpes.

Northwestern biomedical engineer Patrick Kiser developed the ring with a team of engineers who researched for more than five years how to create a ring that would slowly release the medications over a period of three months. Kiser said combining the medications proved difficult because of their incompatibility. For this reason, one portion of the ring is made from one type of plastic while the other portion of the ring is made from another.

The researchers released their design for the ring in the March 5th edition of the health journal PLOS ONE. The rings are not currently available for public sale, but are in the manufacturing process. The team has submitted an application to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to test the ring as an “Investigational New Drug.” If approved, the process could take anywhere from 5-7 years for the medication to gain approval.


  • Northwestern University
  • Long-Lasting Device Protects Against HIV and Pregnancy.
  • Levongestrel.
  • Tenofovir.

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