December 14, 2010
"The recent announcement that a pill currently used to treat HIV infection can also help prevent it was an important milestone in the effort to keep people from getting the virus. ... The HIV drug's success in a Phase III trial is one of several recent breakthroughs in HIV prevention. None of the approaches, which also include a vaginal gel and an AIDS vaccine, is perfect, but all are promising.
"Together they add momentum to the growing body of evidence that science, if properly focused and funded, can deliver effective methods of preventing HIV. ... Thanks largely to AIDS activists who demanded expedited research and approvals, today there are more drugs licensed to treat HIV than there are for all other viruses combined.
"Generous donors and innovative pricing mechanisms have made these antiretroviral drugs available to about 36 percent of those in the developing world who need them to stay alive and healthy. Increasingly, however, both donor and recipient governments are questioning the sustainability of foreign funding for [ARV] treatment. ... It has become clear that treatment for HIV, though still crucially important, can't solve the problem. That will only happen through preventing transmission of the virus in the first place. ...
"Though the science for these new tools is promising, the funding base is flat, despite large investments of stimulus dollars by the United States government. ... Other donor countries that are contributing to HIV treatment globally should also make simultaneous and significant investments in new prevention methods to ensure that their HIV costs won't rise indefinitely.
"Governments of developing countries can also play their part, by first instituting proven HIV prevention efforts while being accountable for results as measured by reductions in new infections. Second, they can demand the development of new HIV prevention tools as passionately as they have demanded universal access to HIV treatment."
The author is CEO of the non-profit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.