Call for World Leaders to Redouble Efforts to Develop Vaccines and Microbicides

Researchers and international leaders at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS recently called on governments around the world to complement their existing efforts with a focus on developing new technologies, such as microbicides and vaccines, to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Both AIDS vaccines and microbicides could help to end the epidemic and increase the power of women to protect themselves from HIV infection.

Health and science ministers from Brazil and India and representatives from Rwanda joined with UN leaders and the heads of the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) to discuss the importance of new HIV prevention technologies and to address the stigma challenges that often undermine national efforts to confront the disease.

“There has been considerable progress in the search for a vaccine against HIV, but we do not yet have a viable one,” said Secretary General Kofi A. Annan.

“To succeed, we must focus resources on basic research and engage communities around prevention trials. The same must be done to develop an effective microbicide. At the same time, we must also step up prevention efforts and strengthen infrastructure to ensure that when an AIDS vaccine or microbicide becomes available, people everywhere will have immediate access -- especially those who need it most.”

Discussions focused on promising new preventive technologies such as microbicides, products in a gel, cream, or ring that could be applied topically to genital mucosal surfaces to reduce the transmission of HIV during sexual intercourse.

Microbicide development is advancing rapidly. Five microbicide candidates have entered or are about to enter large-scale efficacy trials this year.

Preventive vaccines have been key to curbing viral epidemics in the past, such as polio, smallpox, measles, and more than a dozen others.

Today, the AIDS vaccine field is making renewed progress towards a preventive vaccine with new scientific efforts underway with over 30 vaccine candidates in 20 countries.

“As we have seen in India, it is vital for emerging economies to build capacity to conduct research, which can have benefits well beyond the trials themselves,” said Kapil Sibal, Minister of Science and Technology from India. “Leaders within emerging economies should integrate vaccine and microbicide development into their comprehensive responses to HIV/AIDS.”

“The world needs better long-term solutions to the HIV pandemic,” said Seth Berkley, MD, President and CEO of IAVI.

“Greater collaboration – particularly between the North and the South – is making a significant difference. Harnessing the talents of researchers in heavily-affected countries, speeding regulatory and trial processes, and working with communities will produce better technologies sooner.”

“Vaccines offer the best long-term solution to the epidemic, and microbicides, which could be ready in 5-7 years, offer hope to the growing number of women who are vulnerable to HIV,” said Dr. Zeda Rosenberg, CEO of IPM.

“HIV infection rates among women have risen dramatically in recent years. Developing technologies, including an effective microbicide whose use could be initiated by women, is a crucial step in combating the AIDS epidemic.”

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