Toronto Star Examines Increased Attention to Microbicide Research, Challenges in Development, Access
The Toronto Star on Monday examined the increasing attention recently to microbicide research and the challenges in developing, and potentially distributing, an effective product that women could use to prevent HIV transmission (Daly, Toronto Star, 7/24). 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 infections (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/17). "The need for a microbicide has grown with the awareness of women's vulnerability," U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis said. Zeda Rosenberg, CEO of the International Partnership for Microbicides, said researchers at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto next month will call for the immediate doubling of microbicide research funding from $160 million to $320 million annually. According to the Star, leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations earlier this month at their summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, called for more support for microbicide research and development but did not make a "specific funding announcement." There are about 60 experimental microbicides in various stages of development, with 14 in early stage clinical trials, the Star reports. Five of the products -- Carraguard, BufferGel, Savvy, PRO 2000 and Ushercell -- are being tested for safety and efficacy in thousands of HIV-negative women in trials in Africa and India. Although "momentum is building" for a microbicide to be available by 2010, "[o]ne of the biggest challenges will be how to make an effective [microbicide] available -- and affordable -- to" developing countries, according to the Star. The African Microbicides Advocacy Group -- a collection of 250 researchers, lawmakers and advocates -- is attempting to get people in Africa ready for the release of a microbicide, and some drug companies have said they would offer such products at reduced cost, Manju Chatani, coordinator of AMAG, said. Some HIV/AIDS advocates "caution against viewing microbicides as a magic bullet that will empower women overnight," the Star reports. Rosenberg said the first microbicide likely will have to be applied at least one hour before sexual intercourse and likely will have limited efficacy (Toronto Star, 7/24).
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