At the big International AIDS Conference in Vienna a few weeks back, there was wide coverage of positive trial results for a new microbicide –- a gel that women can use to reduce their risk of getting infected with HIV.
Giving women a prevention tool that they can use to protect themselves from the virus is critical. Right now, they have to depend on men to use condoms or other methods — and you can see how well that’s going.
The next step in moving the microbicide forward is to conduct confirmatory studies to validate this first one. This ensures that the study wasn’t somehow flawed, and that the product is safe and predictable. Unfortunately, the New York Times reported over the weekend that donors are dragging their feet in funding these studies.
This just cannot be accepted. We need the U.S. and other rich countries to put forward the relatively modest amounts needed to conduct the validation trials to put them on the fast track for completion.
These investments in prevention technology make huge public health and financial sense, helping ensure that we meet the treatment needs of those already living with HIV.
As Melinda Gates said in a great speech four years ago (at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto), “No matter where she lives, who she is, or what she does — a woman should never need her partner’s permission to save her own life.”
A microbicide is the best hope we have — until there’s a vaccine, of course -– of giving women some control over their own HIV risk. So, let’s get these studies going.