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Amazing health news out of South Africa today: a vaginal ring has been found to cut the risk of HIV infection in women by at least 56%, and 75% or more when used frequently. This is seriously a game-changer.

Here’s how it works

The ring, which is designed similarly to birth control rings like the NuvaRing, slowly releases dapirivine, a drug that prevents the virus from infecting the woman’s cells. This method allows women to protect themselves from HIV infections even if their partner refuses to wear a condom.

The exciting results were announced at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa today. The location of the conference was not a coincidence: there’s an alarmingly high rate of HIV and AIDS infections in women in sub-Saharan Africa, due to lack of education and access to prevention methods.

And why it’s important to these women

Women also face greater risk due to social norms that allow men to dictate sexual decisions. Women often aren’t able to say no to sexual advances — even from their husbands — or request that protection be used.

We’re looking forward to a day when HIV and AIDS are completely eradicated, but until then, innovations like the dapirivine ring are cause for celebration.