IPM CEO Calls for Global Investment in Microbicide That Could Avert Nearly 1 Million HIV Infections a Year
BANGKOK – An effective microbicide could be available to protect women from HIV within 5-7 years, said Dr. Zeda Rosenberg, CEO of the International Partnership for Microbicides, in a plenary address on Thursday to the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok. According to a recent Rockefeller Foundation Report, even a partially-effective microbicide could avert 2.5 million HIV infections over the next three years.
“With real leadership and global investment, a safe and effective microbicide could be a reality for women in developing countries by the end of this decade,” Dr. Rosenberg said. “Current prevention options are just not enough. For women worldwide, being young and married are the two most significant risk factors for contracting HIV - and microbicides are the prevention tool they desperately need.”
Women’s susceptibility to HIV is exacerbated because females are biologically more vulnerable to infections and are often powerless to abstain from sex or to insist on condom use. Women now make up 60 percent of all HIV infections in Africa, and rates of infection among women in other regions are growing rapidly.
“We must ensure [women] have full access to the practical options that can protect them from HIV - including microbicides, as they become available,” said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in his address to the conferenceís opening ceremony.
Potential microbicides could include a variety of formulations such as gels or creams that could be applied vaginally to prevent HIV transmission. The field is also exploring intravaginal devices such as rings or diaphragms that may be effective against HIV for extended periods of time.
Advances in HIV science have enabled microbicide developers to produce second- and third-generation microbicides that have, or soon will, enter clinical trials. Current clinical trials of microbicide candidates will enroll more than 20,000 women worldwide in the next three years, which will consume existing trial site capacity.
IPM is marshaling significant resources to expand clinical trial capacity, and partnering with industry and academia to develop promising microbicide formulations for future trials. The organization, in collaboration with others, is building regulatory and distribution pathways to ensure access for all once a safe and effective microbicide is proven.
“If we look at the lifecycle of HIV, there are many mechanisms a microbicide could employ to prevent transmission,î Dr. Rosenberg said. ìThe field is exploring numerous mechanisms of action, with the ultimate understanding that a successful microbicide will likely be a combination product utilizing multiple strategies.”
Dr. Rosenberg called upon industry to continue making antiviral agents available for testing as microbicides and praised Johnson & Johnson"s Tibotec subsidiary for donating the rights to TMC120, a promising new anti-HIV compound, to IPM for use as a microbicide in developing countries. IPMís major financial supporters include five European countries - Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom - as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, UNFPA and the World Bank.
The International Partnership for Microbicides was established in 2002 to accelerate the discovery, development and accessibility of microbicides to prevent transmission of HIV. The organization's goal is to improve the efficiency of all efforts to deliver a safe and effective microbicide as soon as possible.