African leaders meet international health officials to discuss microbicides

By Henry Neondo

African leaders including Mozambican Minister of Health Dr. Paulo Ivo Garrido and Graça Machel, President of the Foundation for Community Development in Mozambique recently met with international health leaders to discuss ongoing activities to develop a microbicide to protect women from HIV infection.

“The world needs to act now to commit the resources and political will to scale up research and development for microbicides,” said Graça Machel, the former first lady of Mozambique.

She added that every year the infections mount, and millions more lives are lost to this epidemic insisting that the battle against HIV/AIDS can be won, "but we must invest in the tools we need to accomplish this goal.”

According to UNAIDS, women now make up more than three quarters of HIV-infected young people in Africa, and the African AIDS epidemic is rapidly becoming feminized.

Microbicides are products such as a topical creams, gels, or vaginal rings that would reduce the transmission of HIV during sexual intercourse.

Women are biologically more vulnerable to HIV infection, and in many societies they are often powerless to abstain from sex or insist on condom use, even with their husbands.

A female-initiated microbicide would give women the power to protect themselves from HIV infection.

Five microbicide candidates have entered or are about to enter large-scale efficacy trials this year in Africa, involving more than 30,000 participants across the continent, and in India.

“New prevention technologies, such as vaccines and microbicides, are essential in order to turn the tide against HIV in Mozambique,” said Minister of Health Dr. Paulo Ivo Garrido.

“More than 1.3 million people in Mozambique are already living with HIV. We are working closely with the international community to help inform people about microbicides and encourage new ways to prevent the spread of HIV,” he added.

The International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), a major player in microbicide development, will begin conducting safety trials of promising microbicide candidates in Tanzania, Rwanda, and South Africa this summer.

According to Zeda Rosenberg, CEO, IPM, “microbicides, which could be ready in 5-7 years, offer immediate hope to the growing number of women who are vulnerable to HIV.”

He said that developing an effective microbicide whose use could be initiated by women is crucial step in combating the AIDS epidemic.


Anonymous said...

Could the debate on microbicides be another of those endless campaigns and issues that keep coming round an issue? We in Africa have so much to fight against and it is not yet time for some Western zealots tried to confuse issues that touch on HIV and AIDS, Tatolo

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