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UNGASS + 5 Support of AIDS Vaccines

July 14, 2006

Preventive Vaccines and Microbicides Included as Part of Comprehensive Response to HIV/AIDS

On May 31 through June 2, leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS+5) to assess progress in implementing the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS. Leaders of over 140 UN Member States participated in an unprecedented gathering of governments and civil society to report and review global progress in the AIDS response.

Prior to the High Level Meeting, IAVI and its partners urged leaders to recognize the importance of investing in and intensifying support for new technologies - notably vaccines and microbicides - as a critical element of a comprehensive response to the AIDS pandemic. IAVI estimates that even a modestly-effective AIDS vaccine could slash the number of new infections over a decade by one-third, savings tens of millions of lives.

A landmark meeting for its unparalleled inclusion of civil society perspectives, UNGASS+5 helped to affirm the role of non-governmental organizations in mounting a response to the pandemic. At the same time, the final UN Political Declaration issued at the conclusion of the Special Session did not address a range of key civil society concerns, including defining clear targets on funding, prevention, care and treatment, as well as explicitly defining the groups that are most vulnerable to HIV infection.

On the other hand, the official UN statement incorporates strong language in support of young people, acknowledging that “half of all new HIV infections are among children and young people under the age of 25.” The Declaration commits to “addressing the rising rates of HIV infection among young people through the implementation of evidence-based prevention strategies” and promotion of “child-oriented HIV policies and programs.” The Declaration also includes strong language in support of women, expressing deep concern about the “feminization of the pandemic” and pledging to “eliminate gender equalities,” while simultaneously acknowledging the role of men and boys in helping to achieve this equality.

Finally, the Declaration highlights vaccines and other prevention technologies as crucial global public health goods and encourages the development of public-private partnerships to effectively respond to HIV/AIDS. An innovative model, PPPs stimulate critical research in countries hardest hit by these diseases, so that affected countries are increasingly able to contribute to solving their own health challenges.

The declaration included the following commitments in support of the development of prevention technologies:

“We, heads of State and Government and representatives of States and Governments participating in the comprehensive review of the progress achieved in realizing the targets set out in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS on 31 May and 1 June 2006 and the High-Level Meeting on 2 June 2006;

  • Recognize also that to mount a comprehensive response, we must…do everything necessary to ensure access to life-saving drugs and prevention tools; and develop just as urgently better tools – drugs, diagnostics and prevention technologies, including vaccines and microbicides – for the future;
  • Commit to intensify investment in and efforts towards the research and development of new, safe and affordable HIV/AIDS-related medicines, products and technologies, such as vaccines, female-controlled methods and microbicides, pediatric antiretroviral formulations, including through such mechanisms as Advance Market Commitments, as well as encourage increased investment in HIV/AIDS-related research and development in traditional medicine;
  • Encourage pharmaceutical companies, donors, multilateral organizations, and other partners to develop public-private partnerships in support of research and development and technology transfer, and in the comprehensive HIV/AIDS response.”
  • Increased AIDS vaccine R&D is critical to international efforts to reverse the pandemic. UNAIDS reports 4.1 million new HIV infections in 2005; 3 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), international targets to increase living standards worldwide.

By galvanizing political support from developing and developed countries, civil society organizations and the scientific community, and by mobilizing expanded financial and scientific resources, the international community can significantly speed the development of AIDS vaccines and microbicides, and other new AIDS prevention technologies. IAVI continues to work with its partners to help build a global movement for accelerated AIDS vaccine R&D and to ensure future vaccine access and delivery.