June 02, 2005
NEW YORK, Thursday, June 2, 2005 – Researchers and international leaders at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS today called on governments around the world to complement their existing efforts with a focus on developing new technologies, such as microbicides and vaccines, to prevent the spread of HIV. Both AIDS vaccines and microbicides could help to end the epidemic and increase the power of women to protect themselves from HIV infection.
Health and science ministers from Brazil and India and representatives from Rwanda joined with UN leaders and the heads of the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) to discuss the importance of new HIV prevention technologies and to address the stigma challenges that often undermine national efforts to confront the disease.
“There has been considerable progress in the search for a vaccine against HIV, but we do not yet have a viable one,” said Secretary General Kofi A. Annan. “To succeed, we must focus resources on basic research and engage communities around prevention trials. The same must be done to develop an effective microbicide. At the same time, we must also step up prevention efforts and strengthen infrastructure to ensure that when an AIDS vaccine or microbicide becomes available, people everywhere will have immediate access -- especially those who need it most.”
Discussions focused on promising new preventive technologies such as microbicides, products in a gel, cream, or ring that could be applied topically to genital mucosal surfaces to reduce the transmission of HIV during sexual intercourse. Microbicide development is advancing rapidly. Five microbicide candidates have entered or are about to enter large-scale efficacy trials this year. Preventive vaccines have been key to curbing viral epidemics in the past, such as polio, smallpox, measles, and more than a dozen others. Today, the AIDS vaccine field is making renewed progress towards a preventive vaccine with new scientific efforts underway with over 30 vaccine candidates in 20 countries.
“As we have seen in India, it is vital for emerging economies to build capacity to conduct research, which can have benefits well beyond the trials themselves,” said Kapil Sibal, Minister of Science and Technology from India. “Leaders within emerging economies should integrate vaccine and microbicide development into their comprehensive responses to HIV/AIDS.”
“The world needs better long-term solutions to the HIV pandemic,” said Seth Berkley, MD, President and CEO of IAVI. “Greater collaboration – particularly between the North and the South – is making a significant difference. Harnessing the talents of researchers in heavily-affected countries, speeding regulatory and trial processes, and working with communities will produce better technologies sooner.”
“Vaccines offer the best long-term solution to the epidemic, and microbicides, which could be ready in 5-7 years, offer hope to the growing number of women who are vulnerable to HIV,” said Dr. Zeda Rosenberg, CEO of IPM. “HIV infection rates among women have risen dramatically in recent years. Developing technologies, including an effective microbicide whose use could be initiated by women, is a crucial step in combating the AIDS epidemic.”
Financial support for AIDS vaccine research and development (R&D) is predominately provided by the public sector. Ninety percent of this funding comes from governmental sources with 90% of that total coming from the United States, including the recent increase in funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Other important sources of support include philanthropic foundations, such as the recent commitment by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2004, approximately $140 million was committed to microbicide research. The public sector contributed 85% of the total funds, 75% of which came from the United States. New incentives to increase industry engagement, which are currently being discussed in the field, are critical.
Next month, leaders from the G8 nations will review progress made since last year’s endorsement of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, an alliance of independent organizations committed to accelerating the development of a preventive HIV vaccine. In the lead-up to the G8 summit in Scotland next month, the importance of continued support for HIV vaccines and microbicides has been reiterated.
“The world needs to act now to commit the resources and political will to scale up research and development for HIV vaccines and microbicides,” said Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). “As things stand, we are still years away from a microbicide or vaccine. Every year HIV infections continue to grow and millions more lives are lost to this epidemic. The battle against AIDS can be won, but we must invest in the tools we need to accomplish this goal.”
IPM (www.ipm-microbicides.org) seeks to deliver a safe and effective microbicide for women in developing countries as soon as possible. IPM identifies the most promising technologies and invests its resources to help develop them into usable products. Given current scientific advancements and the identification of a number of potential microbicidal agents, an effective microbicide could be developed by the end of the decade. IPM is led by Chief Executive Officer Dr. Zeda Rosenberg, who is a Harvard-trained microbiologist and public health advocate. Donors to IPM include the Governments of Canada, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States as well as the European Commission, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Bank and the United Nations.
IAVI (www.iavi.org) is a global not-for-profit organization working to accelerate the development of a vaccine to prevent HIV infection and AIDS. Founded in 1996 and operational in 23 countries, IAVI and its network of collaborators research and develop vaccine candidates. IAVI also advocates for a vaccine to be a global priority and works to assure that a future vaccine will be accessible to all who need it. IAVI's financial and in-kind supporters include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan and Starr Foundations; the Governments of Canada, Denmark, the European Union, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States; multilateral organizations such as the World Bank; corporate donors including BD (Becton, Dickinson & Co.), Continental Airlines and DHL; leading AIDS charities such as Crusaid, Deutsche AIDS Stiftung, and the Until There's A Cure Foundation; and other private donors such as the Phoebe W. Haas Charitable Trust B.