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Expert Panel Releases Comprehensive New Research Agenda to Improve HIV Responses for Women and Children

On International Women's Day, IAS-Convened Panel Seeks Significant New Focus on Women and Children, Who Make up the Majority of People Living with HIV Worldwide

8 March (Geneva, Switzerland) - As the HIV pandemic continues to exact an increasing toll on women and children, the International AIDS Society (IAS) and 15 other leading public and private sector organizations have released a comprehensive new research agenda designed to significantly advance global responses to HIV in women and children. The new consensus statement, Asking the Right Questions: Advancing an HIV Research Agenda for Women and Children, includes 20 specific recommendations to expand and improve responses to the HIV-related challenges facing women and children worldwide.

The Agenda, which focuses on key gaps in clinical and programmatic knowledge that hinder access to effective HIV prevention, treatment and care for women and children, is being released today to coincide with International Women's Day, whose theme is "Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All."

Inadequate responses to HIV are a major barrier to women's health and progress worldwide. According to UNAIDS, 15.7 million women and 2.1 million children under age 15 were living with HIV in 2008. Women and children made up the majority of the estimated 33.4 million people living with HIV in 2008.

"HIV is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age, and the leading cause of child death in many African countries, yet women and children are often either overlooked completely or folded into general responses to HIV," said IAS Executive Director Robin Gorna. "This agenda defines priority research needed to greatly improve our knowledge about and capacity to prevent and treat HIV in women and children. Implementation of this research agenda is key to closing these knowledge and service gaps, and to saving women's and children's lives."

The Agenda was developed through an extensive consultative process involving investigators, clinicians, civil society and UN agencies, and was informed by an expert-led mapping exercise and literature review initiated by the IAS' Industry Liaison Forum (IAS-ILF). In addition to the IAS, the consensus statement is endorsed by multilateral institutions, international civil society organizations and pharmaceutical industry leaders, including: amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research; AVAC, Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention; Boehringer Ingelheim; Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI); Coalition on Children Affected by AIDS (CCABA); E lizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF); European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG); International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW); International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC); Merck; Treatment Action Group (TAG); UNAIDS; UNICEF; ViiV Healthcare and WHO.

The Agenda identifies priority research questions within four broad categories: 1) clinical research on prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and paediatric treatment; 2) clinical research on treatment issues for women; 3) operations research for women; and 4) operations and implementation research related to PMTCT, including paediatric care, treatment and support. Recommendations in the fourth part of the agenda were developed through a parallel initiative led by UNICEF.

The Agenda outlines strategies to address issues such as:

  • Barriers to developing paediatric formulations of HIV treatments
  • The impact of interventions for TB, malaria and malnutrition on antiretroviral ARV) dosage
  • The impact of in utero exposure to antiretrovirals on uninfected children
  • Optimal weight - adapted parameters for antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation and discontinuation in children
  • The impact of female hormone changes on treatment outcomes for women and adolescent girls
  • The impact of periodic ARV exposure via vertical transmission prophylaxis on future maternal treatment options
  • Barriers to ART access for women and girls.
  • The report recommends increased investment in research to address these challenges, greatly expanded sharing of data from existing studies related to HIV and women and children, and intensified efforts to disaggregate clinical data by sex to ensure opportunities for gender-based analysis. The endorsing organizations also call for collaboration between funders, researchers, health care providers, UN agencies and civil society and diagnostic and pharmaceutical industry in implementing the new research agenda.

    "While substantial progress has been made in expanding access to antiretroviral therapy for adults and children and preventing vertical transmission of HIV, there is still far too much we do not know about preventing, managing and treating HIV disease in women and children," said Robin Gorna. "Only by working together to implement this research agenda can we rectify persistent inequities in clinical knowledge, achieve the Millennium Development Goals and prevent the needless illness and death of millions of women and children worldwide."

    The full research agenda on women and children and detailed information on the iterative process used to develop, validate and prioritize the research priorities is available online at . Information on the UNICEF-led initiative, including the final list of operations/implementation research recommendations for PMTCT and paediatric care, treatment and support from a September 2009 expert consultation held in Washington, will be available online at or .


    About the IAS:

    The International AIDS Society (IAS) is the world's leading independent association of HIV professionals, with 14,000 members from 190 countries working at all levels of the global response to AIDS. Our members include researchers from all disciplines, clinicians, public health and community practitioners on the frontlines of the epidemic, as well as policy and programme planners. The IAS is the custodian of the biennial International AIDS Conference, which will next be held in Vienna, Austria, in July 2010.

    The IAS - Industry Liaison Forum, established in 2001, provides a multi - stakeholder forum that promotes scientific, intellectual and financial commitments from pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies for HIV research in resource - limited settings.

    For more information :

    Regina Aragón (Rome, Italy)
    Acting Communications Manager
    Tel: +39 329 445 9590

    Michael Kessler (Barcelona)
    +34 93 476 0901

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