Canada Offers ‘Little New Substance’ in Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Should Contribute to Microbicide Research, Editorial Says
Although Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin made a "bold start" in the country's efforts against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Canada has offered "little new ... substance" since the passage of "groundbreaking" legislation on generic medications and an "impressive" funding package to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the World Health Organization's 3 by 5 Initiative earlier this year, a Toronto Globe and Mail editorial says (Globe and Mail, 11/9). In May, Martin announced a doubling of the country's contribution to the Global Fund to more than $50 million for fiscal year 2005-2006, and two days later, he announced a $72 million contribution to the 3 by 5 Initiative, which aims to treat three million people in the developing world with antiretroviral drugs by 2005. The Canadian Senate in May also approved C-9, which amended the country's patent laws to permit the government to order the override of patents to allow certain pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce and export generic medications -- including antiretroviral drugs -- for use in developing countries (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/13).
Although Canada's contributions to the Global Fund and 3 by 5 Initiative, along with the passage of C-9, "spoke well of Mr. Martin's promise to restore Canada's place in the world by ... taking a more aggressive role in addressing global problems," the country has produced a "tepid response" toward the global effort to develop microbicides, according to the Globe and Mail (Globe and Mail, 11/9). Microbicides include a range of products, such as gels, films, sponges and other products, that could help prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Although HIV is transmitted primarily through heterosexual intercourse in much of Africa and Asia, no female-controlled HIV prevention method currently is widely available. An effective microbicide would kill HIV in semen, block the virus from attaching to a target cell or prevent HIV from multiplying if the virus enters a target cell (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/24). It is a "pity the government's recent actions haven't lived up to its rhetoric," the editorial says, adding that the country has not pledged any financial contributions to microbicide research, despite requests from the International Partnership for Microbicides for $20 million over the next three years. Microbicides "can't stop the AIDS pandemic, but they may eventually help blunt it," the editorial says, concluding, "It's time Canada lent a hand in their development. Contributing $20 million would be a good first step" (Globe and Mail, 11/9).