Dearest IRMA members –

Just a quick note to say THANK YOU for everything you have done this year to advance the research and development of safe, effective, acceptable, and accessible rectal microbicides for the human beings who need them.

I think IRMA has had a banner year – and the reason it was so incredible is YOU.

Here are some highlights. Feel free to chime in with your own – this list is by no means exhaustive of all the fabulous things IRMA, and the field as a whole, have been up to…

– With thanks to AVAC, in 2011 IRMA greatly expanded our advocacy footprint in South America with a strengthened IRMA-ALC (America Latina y el Caribe). Based at the gay men’s health organization Epicentro in Lima, Peru, IRMA ALC has been invigorating rectal microbicide and PrEP advocacy throughout the region, and is now perfectly poised to engage with the upcoming Phase II rectal microbicide trial MTN 017 that will include a site in Lima.  Pictured above is Tia IRMA (Auntie IRMA) – a character created by IRMA-ALC to help share information on rectal microbicides, anal sex, lubricants, etc  – and make it fun/funny 🙂

– In 2011, IRMA secured funding from MAC AIDS Foundation, the Microbicide Trials Network, and the Population Council to develop a short, fun video about rectal microbicide science and clinical trial involvement. We actually JUST HIRED a production company (based in Cape Town, South Africa), and will begin work on the project in earnest as soon as the clock switches to 2012. The video will be something that all our advocates can use, and will be especially helpful for folks in cities where advanced rectal microbicide trials are planned as the video will be designed to support site recruitment activities. We plan to have this baby ready to go by the time MTN 017 launches in mid-year.

– IRMA successfully launched a new initiative called Project ARM – Africa for Rectal Microbicides. With support from the National Institutes of Health Office of AIDS Research, the New Venture Fund, and AVAC – we held a fantastic kick-off meeting with 40 individuals in Addis Ababa in early December, and came up with a whole set of advocacy and scientific activities designed to fully engage Africa in rectal microbicide research and advocacy. A report from the meeting – a road map of sorts – will be released at Microbicides 2012. But not content to wait, the group that met in Addis is already busy getting started on Project ARM goals and objectives – and will be reaching out to our broader IRMA membership in 2012 to help move us all forward.

None of this would have happened without our amazing membership – so much love and gratitude to you all. You make me so happy and proud 🙂

I am excited to say that I am headed to Thailand tomorrow. IRMA is helping conduct civil society consultations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai in conjunction with MTN 017 – similar to the ones that were held in Cape Town and Pittsburgh already (and are being planned for Boston and Lima.) This will be a great opportunity for IRMA to expand it’s membership in Thailand. And I must say, my slides that have been translated into the Thai language look STUNNING – the Thai script is so lovely.

Actually, the announcement of MTN 017 was another HUGE highlight in 2011. It will be the field’s very first Phase II rectal microbicide trial – how cool is that?! We will be sure to tell you more about it once the protocol is finalized in the new year – including a global teleconference which will explain all the details.

If you have other highlights to share regarding our field – please feel free.

In the meantime, best wishes to each of you, and happy, happy, happy New Year.

Jim Pickett
IRMA Chair

[If an item is not written by an IRMA member, it should not be construed that IRMA has taken a position on the article’s content, whether in support or in opposition.]