Decline in global funding threatens search for HIV vaccine

• May kill more people as drug resistance rises
A decline in funding by donor agencies might threaten the search for a vaccine for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS).This was revealed yesterday in a 2016 document ahead of the 9th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Science, which is scheduled to hold next week in Paris, France.

According to the 13th Resource Tracking for HIV Prevention Working Group on Prevention Research & Development Investments, 2016, there has been a decline in investment priorities to fund the search for a vaccine for more than a decade.

The report stated that funding for HIV Prevention Research and Development (R&D) decreased by three per cent from $35 million in the previous year, to $1.17 billion.
Meanwhile, the gains made with the Ante Retro Viral (ARV) drugs which is used to manage persons living with HIV may be lost, if nothing was done urgently to address the rising resistance of the virus to available medications.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday alerted countries to the increasing trend of resistance to HIV drugs in a detailed report based on national surveys conducted in several countries.

The Executive Director for AVAC, a global advocacy group for HIV prevention, Mitchell Warren, said: “The latest figures from UNAIDS show that there has been progress toward meeting the 90-90-90 treatment goals.”

He added that there have been less progress and less reporting on meeting the prevention goals that are critical to epidemic control. He said: “We need to, not only vastly accelerate the roll out of HIV treatment and existing prevention options, but to also continue and sustain investment and provide new tools that would move the world closer to ending AIDS.”

The HIV fieldwork is coming at a time when there is a need to be more optimistic about HIV science and in the accumulated knowledge of what and how the world needs to deliver treatment, prevention and care to the people who need it most.

The report further explained that the U.S. has continued to be the major donor to HIV prevention research. It added that 88 cents of every dollar spent on HIV prevention in 2016, came from just two donors: the US public sector and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Also, the Deputy Executive Director of Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), Luiz Loures, said: “We are at an incredibly exciting time in the field of HIV prevention research and development with more life-saving innovations, science and technology coming to the forefront than ever before. We cannot allow a lack of funding to set back progress. Invest now and we can end AIDS by 2030.”

According to the report, there has been trial of one new HIV vaccine efficacy trial, while another would hold this year. This would involve a novel proof-of-concept trial of antibody-mediated prevention, a monthly vaginal ring, especially with the antiretroviral (ARV) drug, dapivirine proven to be effective, which is under review by the European Medicines Agency.

The WHO HIV drug resistance report 2017 shows that mathematical modelling shows an additional 135,000 deaths and 105,000 new infections could follow in the next five years, if no action was taken, adding that HIV treatment costs could increase by an additional US$650 million (N260 billion) during the period time.

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