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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Alliance for Microbicide Development and the Global Campaign for Microbicides announce the introduction of the Microbicide Development Act of 2005. The bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D- IL).
"We need to dedicate more public health resources to developing microbicides quickly," said Shays. "In many settings, an HIV-infected woman has had only one partner: her husband. Microbicides are being developed with the goal that these products will allow women to protect themselves against the spread of disease and also allow them to conceive children. Current prevention options are not enough. If women and girls are to have a genuine opportunity to protect themselves, their best option is the rapid development of new HIV-prevention technologies like microbicides, which women can initiate."
"Microbicides could well be the first HIV prevention method that allows women to fight HIV-infection on their own. Even a partially effective microbicide could stop the infections of 2.5 million women over three years. This bi-partisan bill may be able to save a generation of women by developing this promising new preventive option," said Schakowsky.
The bill seeks to establish a Microbicide Research and Development Unit at the National Institutes of Health and strengthen microbicide activity at USAID and the Centers for Disease Control. Named one of the "10 most promising biotechnologies for improving global health," microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women could apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections. Microbicides could come in a variety of forms, including gels, creams or rings that would release the drug slowly over days or weeks.
HIV infection rates among women have risen dramatically in recent years. Biologically, women are more than twice as susceptible to HIV as men. This vulnerability is exacerbated by widespread social inequality and poverty that make it difficult for women in many developing countries to insist upon condom use, abstinence or faithfulness with older or more powerful men. For women in many parts of the world, being poor and young are the most significant risk factors for acquiring HIV infection.
The feminization of the epidemic calls for a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS that includes prevention, treatment and care, as well as research into new prevention technologies such as microbicides. In addition, no existing HIV prevention method also allows conception. Some microbicides are being developed with the goal of allowing women to both conceive children and protect themselves from HIV.
The microbicide field has built an extraordinary amount of scientific momentum, with several first-generation candidates entering large-scale human effectiveness trials around the world. At the same time, new products, based upon recent advances in HIV treatment, are already well into safety trials. Given current scientific advancements an effective microbicide could be developed by the end of the decade, and once available, could well change the course of the AIDS epidemic.
The Alliance for Microbicide Development is a global, multisectoral, multidisciplinary coalition founded to accelerate development of microbicides to prevent HIV/AIDS through advocacy, communication, convening, and addressing critical problems in practice and policy. The Global Campaign for Microbicides is an international movement of activists, citizens and non profit organizations dedicated to accelerating access to new HIV prevention tools, especially for women.