Female-Controlled Microbicide to Prevent HIV Infection Could Be Available in Three to Four Years, Piot Says
April 15, 2005
A female-controlled, vaginal microbicide to prevent HIV infection could be available in three to four years and offers more hope in the "foreseeable future" than an HIV/AIDS vaccine, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said on Thursday, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News , 4/14). Speaking to journalists in Geneva, Piot said that the development of a safe and effective HIV/AIDS vaccine is still not on the horizon, but a safe and effective microbicide is, "in the most optimistic scenario," three to four years away. "Conceptually, [microbicides are] straightforward, whereas with the vaccine we still don't know where to go," Piot said, adding, "We don't even know for an HIV/AIDS vaccine what are the elements in the immune response that protect us, what kind of antibodies should we try to stimulate" (Bulman, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 4/14). Microbicides include a range of products such as gels, films, sponges and other products 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). According to Piot, there are about 15 microbicides being tested worldwide, including two human trials in Thailand and the United States. "Currently, we are dealing with trials that deal with thousands and thousands of women," Piot said (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 4/14). Microbicides are necessary because of the increasing feminization of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with more than half of new infections worldwide occurring among women, Piot said (AFP/Yahoo! News , 4/14). He added, "Just as the contraceptive pill is really what made a difference in terms of contraception and family planning, a product like (a microbicide) ... could make a big difference for women's lives in the AIDS epidemic" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 4/14).
Prevention Programs "Neglected"
Challenges Still Exist
Indian Patent Measure
Piot on Thursday also called a recently passed measure in India's parliament that would ban the production of generic versions of newly patented medicines a "major obstacle" in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News , 4/14). The measure, which President Abdul Kalam is expected to sign into law, would prohibit the domestic production of low-cost, generic versions of patented medicines, including antiretrovirals. Under India's current patent process, the country's generic drug industry has made less-expensive medications available worldwide for more than 30 years, making it possible for many people in developing countries to receive treatment for various diseases. However, under the newly passed measure, drug makers that want to continue production of generic drugs must pay royalties to the manufacturers of the patented drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/24). Although the measure would not stop the production of already-existing antiretrovirals, it could stop the future production of less-expensive versions of necessary new drugs, Piot said, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. As HIV becomes increasingly resistant to existing drugs, new drugs will be necessary to replace current generic antiretrovirals, Piot said, adding, "It is fairly predictable that we will continuously need new antiretroviral drugs." Piot also said that he sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before last month's parliamentary vote to outline the likely consequences of the measure (AFP/Yahoo! News , 4/14).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.