Monday, April 30, 2007

Sign on to the Microbicide Development Act of 2007

Women and girls are the new face of HIV/AIDS worldwide. As of 2005, 17.3 million women aged 15 years and older were living with HIV – 48% of the global total. In the hardest hit region of the world, sub-Saharan Africa, women comprise 59% of all adults living with HIV/AIDS.

There are a myriad of effective HIV prevention tools – condoms, mutual monogamy, and STI treatment – but these are not available to most women. In many countries, women do not have the social or economic power necessary to insist on condom use and fidelity, or to abandon partnerships that put them at risk.

Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women (and men) could apply topically to prevent HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections. These user-controlled prevention technologies were hailed as one of the world’s most promising new HIV-prevention technologies at the 2006 Toronto AIDS Conference, and were named in a survey of 28 eminent international scientists and experts as one of the "10 most promising biotechnologies for improving global health."

Right now, a mere 3% of the US budget for AIDS research is spent on developing microbicides. Many public health experts believe that, with increased funding and coordination, an effective microbicide could be available in five to ten years. The longer it takes to develop an effective microbicide, the more people who will be infected needlessly with HIV.

The Microbicide Development Act of 2007 (S. 823 and H.R. 1420) was introduced simultaneously in the House of Representatives and the Senate on 8 March 2007, International Women’s Day. The Act would:

1. Establish a unit dedicated to microbicide research and development within the NIH, and creating a single line of administrative accountability and funding coordination;
2. Authorize funding increases, as needed, at the NIH, the CDC and USAID for the development of microbicidal products; and
3. Require increased coordination between the NIH and other Federal agencies supporting microbicide development.

Please help put the power of HIV prevention in women’s hands by contacting your Senator and Representative … if they are one of the 14 Senate and 26 House co-sponsors, thank them for their support. If they are not a co-sponsor, ask them why.

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