Increases in International Funding for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Development ‘Inadequate,’ BMJ ‘Education and Debate’ Piece Says
Increases in international funding for the development of a vaccine for HIV/AIDS -- the "worst infectious disease ever to affect humanity" -- are "inadequate," Timothy Tucker, director of the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and Gatsha Mazithulela, SAAVI deputy director, write in an "Education and Debate" piece in the Aug. 21 issue of BMJ. Although vaccines are the "most cost-efficient and effective" method for preventing infectious diseases, the majority of financial support for an HIV/AIDS vaccine has come from the public, not private, sector because it is "unlikely to generate much profit," according to the authors. No "one body or consortium currently has the required capacity, budget, infrastructure or product pipeline" to develop an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine, "particularly with limited private sector involvement," Tucker and Mazithulela say. Because clinical trials can take years and the "urgency of the situation demands" that multiple vaccine development programs are conducted "in parallel," the "size and manner of global investment needs a major rethink if we are to respond with the vigor and speed required by this epidemic," according to the authors. The recent "speed" with which international funding for products concerning biological warfare and infectious agents has been mobilized is "impressive and laudable," Tucker and Mazithulela say, adding, "[W]e need to replicate that sense of urgency for HIV vaccines in response to the 60 million people infected or already dead from HIV infection." Although there are "promising signs of change," including recent grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and donations to the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, "we have not yet managed to raise sufficient resources globally for rapid development of an HIV vaccine," the authors say, concluding that a vaccine is "our best hope to eradicate HIV, and this end point should always be central in biomedical decisions" (Tucker/Mazithulela, BMJ, 8/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.