October 19, 2007
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative Applauds the Governments of India, the United Kingdom, and South Africa for their Commitment to Exploring New Financial Incentives to Accelerate AIDS Vaccine R&D
Washington DC, October 19, 2007 - At the Annual Meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank today, Finance Ministers from India, the United Kingdom and South Africa, gathered in an unprecedented satellite meeting to express their support for an intensified search for new vaccines to prevent AIDS and other major infectious diseases. The ministers agreed that more needs to be done to expand financing for vaccine research & development (R&D). They proposed forming a working group of government representatives and technical experts to explore the optimal mix of financing mechanisms. The working group is to report back to the ministers as early as possible.
Never before has a gathering of finance ministers focused on the subject of R&D for new vaccines. The meeting, called on the initiative of Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, is a significant milestone. The involvement of finance ministers in the AIDS crisis in the late 1990s was partly responsible for the rapid increase in funding in the early years of this decade, which led to the expansion of new antiretroviral therapies and their availability at affordable prices in low-income nations.
As a virus that attacks young adults and breadwinners, the bulk of the working population, AIDS has a devastating effect on the financial well-being of countries that are hardest hit by the epidemic. In fact, in heavily affected countries—where HIV prevalence equals or exceeds 20 percent—the rate of growth of gross domestic product has been estimated to be 1.5 to 2.6 percent lower, meaning that national wealth in 20 years could be 40 to 60 percent lower than it would have been in the absence of the virus.
Today, even with expanded access to life-prolonging drugs, we are still losing the battle against AIDS. For every one person put on antiretroviral treatment, six individuals are newly-infected with HIV. According to new UN figures, AIDS funding will have to increase fourfold to US$42 billion per year in order to reach universal access to prevention, treatment and care by 2010.
"Historically, no viral epidemic has been defeated in the absence of a vaccine," Mr. Chidambaram said. "A vaccine is not a sufficient answer to the AIDS challenge, but it is a necessary answer. While complementary action will still be required, the need for an AIDS vaccine is undeniable."
Although US$800 million is spent annually on research, AIDS vaccine funding still remains inadequate. The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise estimate that about US$1.2 billion is needed per year. "This gap is not going to be filled," said Mr. Chidambaram, "without innovative financing mechanisms, without drastic interventions from our governments and without either committing more public money to vaccine R&D or creating incentives for greater private investments." Among the proposals Mr. Chidambaram raised were greater funding for public-private product development partnerships, such as IAVI, and extending tax credits and fiscal incentives for those investing in AIDS vaccines.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the assembled ministers offered support for the establishment of a working group that will more closely examine the creation of better incentives for vaccine research.
"Health issues such as HIV/AIDS are global problems, and true global collaboration will be needed to get us to the goal of an effective AIDS vaccine," Mr. Chidambaram said.
The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, said, "The UK has been at the forefront of a number of initiatives to support vaccine research, and to ensure that affordable vaccines become rapidly available in developing countries. It is essential that we provide the necessary resources to develop new vaccines, and I am very pleased to be here today with Finance Minister Chidambaram, demonstrating our support for IAVI, and its commitment to the development of an affordable, effective AIDS vaccine."
The President of IAVI, Dr. Seth Berkley, pointed out the continuing urgency of the need for an effective vaccine. "A vaccine is our best hope of ending the AIDS epidemic. Developing a vaccine is one of the greatest scientific challenges we face today. Meeting that challenge requires the best minds and the freshest ideas, and a significant investment over a sustained period of time. On the other hand, we know that vaccines are an economical way to address infectious diseases. In the absence of an AIDS vaccine, treating and caring for AIDS sufferers will draw an ever-larger portion of the world's resources, threatening the achievement of other development goals."
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is a global not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the development of safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccines for use throughout the world. Founded in 1996 and operational in 24 countries, IAVI and its network of collaborators research and develop vaccine candidates. IAVI's financial and in-kind supporters include the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, The John D. Evans Foundation, The New York Community Trust, the James B. Pendleton Charitable Trust, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Starr Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; the Governments of Canada, Denmark, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the Basque Autonomous Government as well as the European Union; multilateral organizations such as The World Bank; corporate donors including BD (Becton, Dickinson & Co.), Continental Airlines, Google Inc., Henry Schein, Inc., Merck & Co., Inc. and Pfizer Inc; leading AIDS charities such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Until There's A Cure Foundation; other private donors such as The Haas Trusts; and many generous individuals from around the world.