Research Documents

Introducing the VARG: Focusing local lens on global advocacy for HIV vaccines

Seventy-five advocates from across Africa—friends, allies, researchers—came together for a one-day meeting in Johannesburg on April 14 to discuss the recent dapivirine ring results, what they mean in the broader context of women’s HIV prevention, what comes next and key milestones to plan for.

The recently released results of the dapivirine vaginal ring for HIV prevention demonstrated, for the first time, that an ARV-containing vaginal ring could prevent HIV acquisition. The trial data caused celebration and immediate conversation about what would happen next given that the trial showed both that the ring works and that there may be real challenges with adherence, particularly in younger women.


With new programs, funding initiatives and research specifically targeted for women and girls, this workshop convening was an important juncture to pause, take stock, consider the next few years and plan key advocacy priorities. The discussions highlighted the exciting and complicated road ahead for rings and for prevention options for women generally.

This meeting provided an opportunity to unpack and interpret the dapivirine ring results, understand and interrogate next steps, situate the next two years for women’s HIV prevention (research, implementation and funding), and identify advocacy opportunities and areas for further engagement.

Two young women living with HIV set the stage for the day with their personal stories and perspectives on where HIV prevention sits in the context of the lives of young African women. Their stories became a frame for the day—recognizing the special needs young people have for contextualized education about HIV and sexuality, but more importantly that young women are the most powerful champions and MUST be involved in designing and delivering any interventions and decision-making processes that impact their lives.