Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, comprising more than half of the estimated 37.9 million people living with the disease. Moreover, according to United Nations AIDS, some regions of the world, like sub-Saharan Africa, have an even higher burden, with women and girls constituting over 57% of the affected population, compared to 52% worldwide. With an unwavering increase of the disease along with antiretroviral treatments that can only help control the virus, not kill it, preventing HIV infection is essential. Researchers have been investigating for many years the use of intravaginal rings (IVRs) as devices for the delivery of agents to protect against the sexual transmission of HIV and other diseases, as well as to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
At the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, professor Rahima Benhabbour has been passionately developing innovative technologies to improve health conditions for women. Using 3D printing technology and her startup company AnelleO, she is quickly creating a breakthrough IVR that will be more efficient in drug delivery and can be customized to women’s needs.
Benhabbour recently said that watching the CEO and founder of Carbon, Joseph DeSimone, demonstrating how his 3D printer worked during a TED talk, made her wonder how she could apply the technology to IVRs. Soon after, she established her own company to print intricate features on customizable devices that could help women worldwide.