Vaginal ring acceptability: a systematic review and meta-analysis of vaginal ring experiences from around the world


Objective: The vaginal ring (ring) is a female-initiated, long-acting drug delivery system for different indications, including HIV prevention. Our aim was to provide evidence for acceptability of the vaginal ring across indications to support dapivirine and multipurpose prevention technology ring introduction and roll out.

Study design: This systematic review and meta-analysis followed PRISMA guidelines. We searched PubMed, Web of Science, Embase, and grey literature for publications reporting favorable ring acceptability and secondary outcomes involving actual ring use (comfort, ease of ring use, ring comfort during sex, expulsions, and vaginal symptoms) or hypothetical acceptability for any indication published 1/1/1970-6/15/2021. We estimated random-effects pooled prevalence, assessing between-study variation using meta-regression.

Results: Of 2,234 records, we included 123 studies with 40,434 actual and hypothetical ring users. The primary outcome assessment included 50 studies with 60 ring subgroups totaling 19,271 ring users. The favorable acceptability pooled prevalence was 85.6% (95%CI 81.3, 89.0), while hypothetical acceptability among non-ring users was 27.6% (95%CI 17.5, 40.5). In meta-regression, acceptability was higher in menopause (95.4%; 95%CI 88.4, 98.2) compared to contraceptive rings (83.7%; 95%CI 75.6, 89.5). Acceptability was lower in pharmacokinetic studies (50%; 95%CI 22.1, 77.9) compared to RCTs (89.5%; 95%CI and in studies assessing acceptability at ≥12 months (78.5%; 95%CI 66.5, 87.1) versus studies assessing acceptability at <3 months (91.9%; 95%CI 83.7, 96.1). European (90.6%; 95%CI 83.9, 94.7), Asian (97.1%; 95%CI 92.0, 99.0), and multi-region studies (93.5%; 95%CI 84.6, 97.4) reported more favorable acceptability compared to African studies (59.4%; 95%CI 38.3, 77.5). Secondary outcomes were similarly favorable, including ring comfort (92.9%; 95%CI 89.2, 95.4), ease of use (90.9%; 95%CI 86.5, 94.0), and comfort during sex (82.7%; 95%CI 76.4, 87.6). Limitations include inconsistent outcome definitions and unmeasured factors affecting acceptability.

Conclusions: Women who used vaginal rings reported they were acceptable across indications geographic regions and indications. Policy makers should consider the ring as an important option for pregnancy and HIV prevention drug development.

Ridgeway, K., Montgomery, E. T., Smith, K., Torjesen, K., Straten, A. V., Achilles, S. L., & Griffin, J. B. (2021). Vaginal ring acceptability: a systematic review and meta-analysis of vaginal ring experiences from around the worldContraception, S0010-7824(21)00410-8. Advance online publication.

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Elizabeth Montgomery


HIV prevention research

Quantitative and qualitative methods

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