More Funding, Commercial Incentives, Cooperation Needed for HIV Vaccine Development, Researchers Say
An HIV/AIDS vaccine can be developed only with more funding, better commercial incentives and more cooperation among scientists, advocates and researchers said Thursday at a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing, CQ HealthBeat reports. NIH provides $607 million annually for AIDS vaccine research, and $700 million annually is spent on vaccine research and development worldwide. However, AIDS vaccine research needs $1.2 billion annually, Seth Berkley, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said. He urged Congress to pass incentives that would encourage the pharmaceutical industry to become more engaged in the search for a vaccine. "A legally binding agreement to pay a decent price to companies that successfully make an AIDS vaccine for use in the developing world would help overcome the substantial scientific and commercial risks they face," Berkley said. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) condemned colleagues for last year eliminating funding for a provision that would have provided tax credits to the industry to develop a vaccine, CQ HealthBeat reports. "The Congress of the United States is culpable," Kerry said, adding, "The result is billions of more people are infected and millions more are going to die." Committee Chair Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) has introduced a resolution (SR42) that would support accelerated research on an AIDS vaccine. "We are continuing to work to identify legislative options that might help advance vaccine research," he said. Lugar also is urging the Group of Eight industrialized nations to increase their funding to the Global HIV/AIDS Vaccine Enterprise, which the group launched in June 2004. The G8 is scheduled to meet next month in Gleneagles, Scotland. Helene Gayle -- director for HIV, tuberculosis and reproductive health programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- said that the development of an effective vaccine will take time and "staying the course over the long haul is really what's key" (CQ HealthBeat , 6/23).
Also at the hearing, actress Ashley Judd called for legislators to "tie future foreign aid to a country's demonstrated commitment to enforcing laws that protect women from all forms of sexual violence," which fuels the spread of HIV, CQ HealthBeat reports. Young women in Africa are up to six times as likely as their male counterparts to contract HIV mainly because of "cross-generational sex," Judd said. She added that a study in the journal Social Science and Medicine found that almost one-third of young women surveyed in South Africa said rape was their first sexual experience. Judd said "social norms" of male-female interactions in many developing countries often leads young teenage girls who are in need of financial support to enter "empty sexual relationships with men a generation or more older than them." Consequently, these girls use their bodies for "modest financial support -- such as lunch, a cell phone, plastic shoes or half a liter of fuel," Judd said. "Rarely do these young women seriously consider the possibility of becoming infected with HIV," she added. Judd is the global ambassador for YouthAIDS, which is working in about 60 countries to educate young people about how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS (CQ HealthBeat , 6/23).