The world took a giant step towards developing a viable, safe and effective microbicide against HIV with commitments from several governments to significant microbicide development. Canada pledged US$13.2 million, and the Netherlands committed to $15.7 million over four years, to the International Partnership for Microbicides. Belgium ($4 million) and Sweden ($2.17 million) also increased their support for microbicides research. PAI hails these commitments and urges other governments to follow suit in order to bring this innovative and life-saving technology to the women around the globe who desperately need it.
Microbicides are designed to reduce or prevent the transmission of HIV—and potentially other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well—when used during sexual intercourse. They would also provide women with a defense against HIV that they can initiate without the consent of their partner—a crucial innovation that does not currently exist. In parts of the world where the status of women makes it difficult for them to negotiate condom use, microbicides would empower women to protect themselves. Some microbicides even have the potential to allow pregnancy while still offering protection from STIs including HIV.
Funding for this exciting new technology now stands at $168 million total worldwide, with the U.S. providing over $100 million. Sadly, this still lags far behind the estimated $280 million needed annually over the next five years in order to accelerate the development of this life-saving tool. A number of HIV/AIDS congressional champions, led by Congressman Chris Shays (R-CT), have sponsored the Microbicide Development Act (HR 3854) which would prioritize funding and support for the development of microbicides. It should be reintroduced in the 110th Congress, passed and fully funded.
With HIV/AIDS affecting a disproportionate number of women, having safe and effective microbicides available could go a long way towards stemming the infection rate worldwide. PAI is encouraged by recent governmental pledges, but total public—and private—financial commitments must be increased to meet realistic cost estimates of this vital research and product development.