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IAVI Calls for Continued Global Leadership: UNGASS + 5

May 18, 2006

Development of Vaccines and Microbicides Must Be Accelerated - Critical Action Is Needed by the UN General Assembly in May 2006

On May 31 through June 2, leaders will gather at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) to assess progress in implementing the 2001 UNGASS Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS. Governments and Civil Society have significantly expanded prevention and treatment programs. However, the number of new HIV infections continues to climb globally and more than three million people died of AIDS last year alone. Beyond causing suffering of individuals and communities, HIV undermines global efforts towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  For more information on how HIV/AIDS affects efforts to improve living standards, see Putting It Together: AIDS and the Millennium Development Goals.

More than ever, world leaders must ensure a comprehensive and integrated approach to AIDS. Expansion and strengthening of existing HIV programs must be balanced with increased and strategically targeted investments in future AIDS technologies - including drugs, diagnostics and prevention, notably vaccines and microbicides, which offer the best hope to end the pandemic and its deleterious effects.

The 2001 UNGASS Declaration urged increased investment in research on AIDS vaccines and other women-initiated methods of prevention. Since 2001, there have been critical advances in microbicide and vaccine development, but significant scientific, financial, and political challenges remain.

To stimulate further progress, it is vital for UNGASS to recognize the importance of investing in new technologies as a critical element of a comprehensive response to the AIDS pandemic. This commitment must be coupled with intensified support for programs of vaccine and microbicide research.

With the vision of working towards a world without AIDS, we urge the 2006 UNGASS to endorse:

  • The importance of investing in the development of new technologies while simultaneously working to scale up the delivery of existing programs to achieve a truly comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS.
  • The need for increased and sustained funding for AIDS vaccine and microbicide research and development (R & D) to speed eventual success. The overall funding gap for vaccines and microbicide is estimated at about $500 million annually.(i) This gap should be closed by 2008.
  • The design and implementation of new mechanisms to stimulate research and to pay for vaccines and microbicides, so that they are accessible in developing countries. New financing instruments being put in place today - including the International Finance Facility, Advance Market Commitments, and other forms of international taxation for development - should be explored as a way to support microbicide and vaccine research, manufacture and delivery.
  • The expansion of capacity building for research and development in developing countries where AIDS is taking its greatest tolls, so that they can play a larger role in discovery, testing, and production of vaccines and microbicides. Investments in strengthening scientific teams and infrastructure, clinical trials sites, and ethical and regulatory agencies are urgently needed.

By galvanizing political support from developing and developed countries, civil society organizations, and the scientific community, and by mobilizing expanded financial and scientific resources, we can significantly speed the development of AIDS vaccines and microbicides, preventing millions of deaths and the attendant human misery and societal damage. UNGASS offers the opportunity for renewed hope and vigor in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. We must act with vision, urgency and determination.