*IRMA is DELIGHTED to see that microbicides for rectal use are specifically mentioned in this announcement.

4 November 2008

via DFID [The Department for International Development (DFID) is the part of the UK Government that manages Britain’s aid to poor countries and works to get rid of extreme poverty.]

The HIV epidemic is set to spiral out of control unless new ways to prevent infection are discovered, Development Minister Gareth Thomas warned today.

The Minister met with leading scientists, businesses and HIV experts in London to agree what new action is needed to fight the spread of the infection.

He announced a new £220 million fund for research which will be used to fund projects that are developing new prevention technologies for diseases such as HIV. He called on scientists to unite in the search for fresh and more effective prevention tools.

Every day 6,800 people are infected – around five people every minute – while five people are infected for every two that are put on life-saving drugs. Thirty-three million people are currently living with HIV and around 15 million children have already been orphaned.

Due to HIV’s genetic mutability and social factors which prevent some people from using prevention methods, such as condoms, it has proven difficult to control the deadly virus.

The new research is likely to include:

  • New products such as gels, films or sponges that women can use to protect themselves from infection during sex. Microbicides could be designed for vaginal or rectal use and could make a big difference in highly endemic countries.
  • Development of a HIV vaccine. To date, there is still no vaccine but the development of one could be the key to reversing the spread of HIV.
  • New start-of-the-art drugs based on existing antiretroviral treatment, designed to protect people judged as high risk, such as those in a relationship where one partner is infected with HIV.

Currently the most effective biomedical intervention available is male circumcision, which is 60% effective in preventing new infections in men. Its effectiveness was discovered during previous research trials.

The new funding makes the UK a world leader on HIV research and the Minister will take the conclusions of today’s meeting to the World Health Organisation, as it forms are new taskforce on HIV.

Gareth Thomas said:

“The reality is that the spread of HIV is set to spiral out of control unless we act now. Five people are infected with HIV every minute and so we must increase our efforts and increase them now.

“The UK Government is committed to fighting the spread of HIV and that is why we are announcing £220 million for product development research. Only through research will we find new ways to halt this epidemic, and I hope this funding will help discover new life-saving technology.”

The Fund will be used to develop new products (drugs, vaccines, microbicides) for neglected tropical diseases including HIV, TB and malaria.