HIV prevention conference focuses on opportunities and challenges
In the road ahead for new technologies
25 April 2012 (Sydney) - The conclusion of the 2012 International Microbicides Conference, a gathering of
researchers, advocates and funders in the HIV prevention field, wrapped up three days of discussion focused on access to prevention
technologies, adherence in clinical trials, innovative financing, dual prevention technologies and new methods of preventing rectal
transmission of HIV. Conference organizers also presented the top awards in the microbicide field: the Lifetime Achievement and
the Omolulu Falobi Award.
Since the first microbicide conference was held in 2000 near Washington, D.C., the biennial gathering has expanded to
include hundreds of top scientists in the HIV prevention field and the advocates from around the globe who have fueled this new
science. Only two years ago, the HIV prevention field had scant evidence and hope that a product used before sex could prevent
HIV. Since then, the CAPRISA 004 trial proved the concept that a gel applied in the vagina before and after sex can reduce
HIV infection, and several trials have shown that a tablet taken orally can reduce HIV infection. These successes have
opened the door to complex challenges that were examined during the Sydney conference.
Global Fund Deputy Executive Director Debrework Zewdie provided a detailed look at global resourcing for new HIV prevention
technology and discussed various methods of innovative financing. She pointed out the delay in implementation following the male
circumcision trials and proof that mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be prevented. She also challenged the microbicide
community to prepare now for implementation.
Milly Katana, Public Health Specialist with John Snow Incorporated, Uganda said, "It is criminal to deny women access to
protective products simply because they cannot afford the fee for them. We can't let that happen with a microbicide. We have to start
thinking about access now, while research is going on. Then we will be prepared to ensure women have access to safe and effective
microbicides as soon as they are introduced."
Other presentations focused on the challenges of adherence in clinical trials and the need for science and real world
behavior to go hand in hand. Many presenters noted that the only products that work are the ones that people will use.
Real world sexual behavior has also brought to light the need for rectal microbicides. These products in development continue
to gain recognition as a much needed prevention technology for men as well as women. IRMA (International Rectal Microbicide Advocates)
released On the Map: Ensuring Africa's Place in Rectal Microbicide Research and Advocacy. This strategy document, developed by
African advocates, researchers, and global allies outlines, priority actions to ensure Africa fully engages in rectal
microbicide research and advocacy activities, including the integration of safe anal-sex messaging into HIV prevention programs.
"For far too long the operating principle concerning the HIV epidemic in Africa has been that it is solely heterosexual,
and that sexual transmission is entirely driven by unprotected vaginal intercourse between men and women," said Jim Pickett, IRMA chair.
"But an increasing body of evidence tells us quite clearly that unprotected anal intercourse is happening all across the
continent - amongst heterosexuals as well as gay men, other men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender
individuals. Unprotected anal intercourse is not uncommon in Africa," he continued, "and compared to
unprotected vaginal intercourse, it is 10 to 20 times more likely to result in HIV infection.
We absolutely need to be concerned about this." For a copy of On the Map, go to: http://rectalmicrobicides.org/ProjectARMreport2012.pdf
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have developed a rectal-specific microbicide gel that contains two different
antiretroviral (ARV) drugs: tenofovir and griffithsin. Tests of the combination gel indicate that it has acceptable physiochemical
characteristics and stability for its further development as a rectal microbicide as a way to help prevent HIV infection
transmitted through unprotected anal sex. Additionally, they evaluated the rectal safety of a reformulated version of
tenofovir gel and found it was both safe and acceptable. The results of the study, which included 65 HIV-negative
men and women who used the gel rectally once a day for one week, represent another important step forward in the
effort to develop a rectal microbicide to prevent HIV through anal sex.
Dual purpose technologies, also known as multi-prevention technologies, or MPTs, are moving to the forefront in research,
as well as advocacy. Dr. Henry Gabelnick, Executive Director of CONRAD, spoke about the need for products that prevent pregnancy as
well as HIV infection. "Improved prevention technology should be developed more vigorously but it is severely dependent on funders
recognizing that not only HIV prevention but broad spectrum microbicidal activity as well as contraception are necessary."
Anna Forbes, a long-time microbicide advocate, received the third Omololu Falobi Award for Excellence in HIV Prevention
Research Community Advocacy. Forbes was honored for her significant contributions to microbicides advocacy over a long career devoted
to fostering civil society engagement in HIV care, treatment and prevention and women's rights. She has been involved in the fight
against AIDS for almost three decades and was an early champion for microbicides when the field had few strong advocacy voices.
She is currently working to promote female condom access through the Paper Doll campaign and for more information, please
go to: www.condoms4all.org .
Lut Van Damme, M.D. and Gita Ramjee, M.D, two of the field's long time principal investigators, were honored with the
conference Lifetime Achievement award. Conference Co-chair John Kaldor said, "This award should not be thought of as something that
is given to someone at the end of their career, but rather an acknowledgment that they have already accomplished so much. Both
Drs. Ramjee and Van Damme led the COL-1492 clinical trial, the first to test whether a vaginal gel can reduce HIV infection.
Notably, the conference closing session ended with a presentation by Gina Brown with the National Institutes of Health's
Office of AIDS Research and Stephen Becker with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who announced their decision to being planning
a biennial global HIV prevention conference. The Sydney 2012 Microbicides conference was the last event funded by NIH and the
Gates Foundation that will focus on microbicides and going forward, the two funders will jointly plan an integrative approach
that will combine vaccines, microbicides and oral PrEP .
Please visit the Virtual Conference homepage to view plenary sessions and interviews with invited speakers, download press releases
and power point presentations, read media coverage from the conference and more.
- Visit the Virtual Conference homepage
- Watch the daily press briefings
- Read the conference press releases
- See media coverage from the conference
- Download media support materials such as factsheets and information leaflets
For more information about the conference or interview opportunities, please contact:
ASHM MediaTel +61 2 8204 0704
Mob +61 405 158 636
Mobile +1 703.772.6427
Communications & Stakeholder Relations Officer
Tel: +27 31 260 4550
Mobile +27 82 782 1276.
Contact: Annette Larkin
2012 International Microbicides Conference