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Money Missing to Confirm Trial of Microbicide to Fight HIV

September 8, 2010

Despite July's encouraging announcement about a potential microbicide gel to protect women from HIV, funding for two trials to confirm the initial findings has stalled.

Just $58 million of the $100 million needed for follow-up studies has been pledged, said UNAIDS. "We have to close the funding gap and get the gel to women," said Dr. Catherine Hankins, chief scientific adviser to UNAIDS.

Scientists have been working for two decades to develop an effective microbicide gel. The latest research examined a vaginal gel carrying the antiviral tenofovir. Women who used the gel before and after sex were found to be 39 percent less likely to contract HIV, while those who used the gel most regularly saw a 54 percent risk reduction, compared to a control group receiving a placebo.

The goal of the two additional studies is to provide evidence to support adoption of the gel on a large scale. Researchers plan to lead one of the confirmatory studies in South Africa, home to the world's highest HIV/AIDS caseload. Scientists would conduct the second study in five southern African nations.

Investing in HIV prevention is far sounder fiscally than providing lifelong AIDS treatment, experts say. Providing antiretroviral therapy to the 5 million people in Africa already receiving it will cost $72 billion over the next four decades, according to Mead Over, a health economist at the Center for Global Development. That amount rises to $225 billion if the number of people on treatment continues to grow, said Over.

So far, the US and South African governments have come up with the majority of additional research money while the UK Department for International Development, a major supporter of microbicide research, has committed nothing. In a statement, the British agency said future spending "will be made based on impact on poverty eradication on the ground."

Back to other news for September 2010

Adapted from:
New York Times
09.04.2010; Celia W. Dugger

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Microbicides: Funding & Advocacy

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