Women Worldwide Need Effective Microbicide To Prevent HIV Infection, Opinion Piece Says
Women worldwide need a "prevention tool they can control," such as an effective microbicide, to prevent HIV infection, Ilene Wong, a physician at Stanford Hospital & Clinics and former HIV/AIDS prevention worker in Africa, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece (Wong, Washington Post, 7/15). Microbicides include a range of products, such as gels, films and sponges, that could help prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. HIV is transmitted primarily through heterosexual intercourse in much of Africa and Asia, but no female-controlled HIV prevention method currently is widely available (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/7). Women can "slip through the cracks" of the "ABC" HIV prevention method -- which stands for abstinence, be faithful and use condoms -- because although many women in Africa are married and monogamous, they cannot ask their husbands, who might have multiple sexual partners, to use condoms, Wong writes. Although microbicides "would be a lifesaving safety net" for these women, the pharmaceutical industry and the Bush administration have not devoted enough resources to their development, according to Wong. The International Partnership for Microbicides estimates that about $280 million annually over the next five years is needed to develop a safe and effective microbicide; however, researchers currently are "struggling" with only $100 million annually, Wong writes. "A truly comprehensive and farsighted global AIDS program would recognize that women need their own weapons against HIV," Wong says, concluding, "They need microbicides" (Washington Post, 7/15).
Wong is scheduled to answer questions about HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in the U.S. and Africa in a washingtonpost.com online chat on Friday at 1 p.m. ET (washingtonpost.com, 7/15). A transcript of the chat will be available online.