December 01, 2006
New York, December 1, 2006 -- Twenty-five years after the discovery of a novel immunodeficiency disease, later to become known as AIDS, an estimated 39.5 million people worldwide are living with HIV, many of whom will die from AIDS-related complications in the coming decades. Halting the epidemic is a prerequisite for reaching the key social and economic Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reduce poverty rates and child mortality, ensure that all children complete primary education and improve maternal health.
A comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS that includes adequate and sustained attention to the development of new AIDS prevention technologies, including vaccines and microbicides, is the best path to eventually reversing the pandemic. IAVI estimates that a 50% effective vaccine given to just one-third of the population could cut the number of new HIV infections in the developing world by more than half in 15 years. With 12,000 people becoming newly infected with HIV each day, accelerating the timetable towards a vaccine should be a global health and development priority.
World AIDS Day 2006 focuses on "accountability" and stresses the importance of holding government and policy leaders accountable for commitments made to curtail the HIV/AIDS pandemic. As governments set national goals that will define the global response to HIV/AIDS in the coming years, IAVI urges them to build on the momentum of promises made in recent global forums, including at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in May and the G-8 Summit in July. We recommend the following concrete actions to accelerate the development of new HIV/AIDS prevention technologies:
- Support increased and sustained funding for AIDS vaccine and microbicides R&D to speed eventual success. The overall funding gap for vaccines and microbicides is estimated at $500 million annually and should include support from both the North and the South. Government, philanthropy and industry should close this gap by 2008.
- Implement new mechanisms to stimulate and fund research for vaccines and microbicides, and ensure their eventual accessibility in developing countries. New financing instruments under development, including the International Finance Facility, Advance Market Commitments and other forms of international levies for development, should be considered as possible sources of funding for microbicide and vaccine research, manufacture and delivery.
- Encourage pharmaceutical companies, donors, multilateral organizations and other partners to back public-private partnerships as a proven innovative means to accelerate R&D and technology transfer for vaccines and other life-saving health technologies for the world’s most serious diseases.
- Expand developing country involvement in vaccine R&D by removing barriers to participation in clinical trials, providing HIV counseling and testing, as well as access to AIDS treatment in and around trial sites. The international community, for example, could provide technical assistance to strengthen national regulatory agencies to help maintain the quality of trials and speed their approval, thereby avoiding costly delays, as well as help to implement programs to train the next generation of developing country scientists.
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 speed the development of AIDS vaccines and microbicides, preventing millions of deaths and the attendant human misery and societal damage.