Senators Applauded for New Legislation Promoting HIV Prevention Technology for Women*
In Washington, DC, Bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate today introduced legislation to accelerate the development of HIV microbicides, a technology aimed to put HIV prevention in the hands of millions of women around the world.
The Microbicide Development Act of 2003 was immediately hailed by international AIDS advocates, scientists, and public health organizers who endorse a comprehensive and accelerated global prevention strategy to defeat HIV/AIDS.
"Senators Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and other Senate co-sponsors have taken a powerful step forward to make a difference in the lives of millions of women at risk of HIV infection- from Sub-Saharan Africa to inner-city and rural communities in the United States," said Polly Harrison, Director of the Alliance for Microbicide Development.
Scientists are currently testing approximately 65 different microbicide compounds to determine whether they will help to protect against HIV and/or other infectious diseases. Six microbicides are currently being readied for U.S. Food and Drug Administration clinical trials that will assess their effectiveness in humans. It is estimated that development of a first-generation microbicide will require an investment of at least $500 million.
"Women currently comprise 50 percent of all new HIV infections globally," said Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ), lead sponsor of the legislation. "The Federal government must move quickly to ensure that all women have the tools to protect themselves, their families, and communities from the devastation of HIV and AIDS."
Biologically, women are four times more vulnerable to HIV infection. That vulnerability is increased due to women's lack of economic and social power in many societies where they often cannot control sexual encounters or insist on protective measures such as abstinence or mutual monogamy. The typical woman who gets infected with HIV in such contexts has only one partner -- her husband.
Recognizing the growing need for an HIV prevention tool that is controlled primarily by women, the Microbicide Development Act of 2003 is intended to achieve better coordination and expanded resources for microbicide research and development activities at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). A similar measure is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives. The legislation establishes a branch dedicated to microbicide research and development within the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Microbicide research at NIH is currently conducted with no single line of administrative accountability or specific funding coordination. In addition, the bill requires coordination between other Federal agencies supporting microbicide development, including CDC and USAID.
With 15,000 new HIV infections occurring globally each day, new prevention tools are urgently needed. According to a report from the Rockefeller Foundation, a microbicide could avert 2.5 million new HIV infections over three years using the most conservative estimates.
Lori Heise, director of the Global campaign for Microbicides stated, "Congress and the Administration must include microbicide development and research as an essential part of its omnibus global HIV/AIDS policy."
* This press release was received on April 10th, 2003.
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