US government boosts funding of microbicide research

The US government's funding of the research and development of candidate microbicides to prevent transmission of HIV will increase by more than US$12 million next year. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) will devote $42 million annually to microbicides as part of the government's overall funding for HIV/AIDS initiatives, which totals more than $2 billion.

Microbicides are creams or gels that can be applied topically in the vagina or rectum to block transmission of HIV. They are seen as an important preventive technology, particularly for women because they can be used without a partner's consent. The 2006 budget for microbicides is meant to fund research into new candidates and to support the testing of these candidates in clinical trials. The money will also be used to provide antiretrovirals (ARVs) to people in microbicide trials who happen to become HIV infected through exposure in the community.

The National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institutes of Health, will also form a partnership with a non-governmental organization to develop vaginal microbicides. The International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) will focus on candidates that are further along in development while NIAID will be more involved in the basic science and research of new microbicides. There are currently 5 candidates in various stages of clinical trials at sites in Africa and North America and 2 of them are already sponsored by NIAID. Emphasis has been placed recently on the need for collaborative partnerships between public and private organizations to speed the development of an effective microbicide and vaccine to prevent the spread of the pandemic.