Focus on new HIV prevention technologies
05 November 2008
HIV prevention was the focus of a meeting organized by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) on 4 November in London. Politicians, scientists, international organizations and civil society members gathered to evaluate current HIV prevention strategies and to join forces in the development of new prevention technologies.
UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Michel Sidibe took part in the meeting where he addressed participants on the challenges faced in responding to the AIDS epidemic, the need for combination prevention along with the development of new prevention tools.
As stated in the UNAIDS 2008 Report on the global AIDS epidemic, there have been significant gains in preventing new HIV infections in a number of heavily affected countries, however the AIDS epidemic is not over in any part of the world. In fact, 2.7 million new infections occurred in 2007. “The reality is we are still far from where we need to be in coverage of proven HIV prevention tools,” Mr Sidibe noted.
Less than 40% of young people globally have correct basic knowledge about HIV, only a third of HIV-positive pregnant women receive antiretrovirals to prevent HIV transmission to their new-born babies and a minority of the most at risk groups have access to HIV prevention programmes.
There was a general agreement among meeting participants that current HIV prevention programmes need to be scaled up and improved. Furthermore, need for further scientific research to accelerate the development and delivery of new HIV prevention tools as an important part of the global AIDS response was emphasised.
New HIV prevention technologies such as vaccines, microbicides and other technologies could play a critical role in reversing the current trends in HIV transmission rates. Its development however will require a global partnership between a range of organizations across a number of sectors, including scientists, private sector, communities and governments.
According to Mr Sidibe, there are three crucial elements which will determine the success in advancing the development of new prevention technologies. First: convening the right actors. Second: developing the right financial architecture. And, third: delivering new technologies as part of a strategy of combination prevention.
“If the 21st century is to be the century of biology, let us make HIV vaccine its first great triumph. The world needs an HIV vaccine,” said UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Michel Sidibe.