July 25, 2013

July 25, 2013
Medical Research Efforts Hurt By Cuts

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Thursday and I hope you are having a beary safe and great week so far. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

Yesterday, I had good news about HIV funding even during the sequestration. But today I have some not so good news about research funding.

Due to funding cuts, medical research at the National Institutes of Health under the bill would increase by a modest $307 million. These budget cuts threaten the unprecedented breakthroughs in 2011 that promise new options to end the AIDS epidemic.

According to the new report "From Research to Reality: Investing in HIV Prevention Research in a Challenging Environment" released at 7th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2013) in Kuala Lumpur, more funding is needed to explore these options.

Steady progress in research and development for HIV vaccines, pre-exposure prophylaxis using antiretroviral drugs (PrEP) and treatment as prevention have confirmed the critical role science has to play in providing solutions to end the AIDS epidemic, yet the ninth annual report from the HIV Vaccines and Microbicides Resource Tracking Working Group shows that funding has essentially plateaued.

In 2012, funders invested a total of $1.31B across R&D for six key prevention areas: preventive HIV vaccines, microbicides, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) using antiretroviral drugs, treatment as prevention, operations research related to voluntary medical male circumcision and prevention of vertical transmission. This is a six percent increase over funding in 2011. But a significant portion of this increase is likely due to improved reporting by several donors.

Science has a critical role to play in ending the AIDS epidemic. The potential returns on investments are hugely important and I strongly urge donors to make funding for research and development a top priority.

This report comes as new guidelines are being released from the World Health Organization (WHO) on when to start taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV. These new guidelines recognize recent advances made in HIV prevention R&D and will help countries maximize the impact of antiretroviral therapy on keeping people alive and well and helping prevent new infections.

It is too early to tell what additional resources will be needed to support countries and programs in adopting the new WHO guidelines and effectively rolling out these proven prevention options, which represents an investment opportunity for countries heavily impacted by HIV, particularly emerging economies.

According to the report, the United States remained the largest public sector funder of HIV prevention research, spending a total of $925M in 2012 -- 70 percent of the total investment in HIV prevention R&D -- and underscoring the importance of fostering broader commitments by additional global partners. These cuts threaten partner funding as well.

As the report highlights, the HIV vaccine field has been a leader in catalyzing innovative partnerships across the public, private, philanthropic and academic sectors. Such partnerships can help integrate new funders and help enhance the information exchange and collaboration that is required as we tackle remaining critical questions in immunology as we move forward to develop even more effective prevention options.

So this is one more area that activists need to be meeting with their elected officials so we can get more funding for HIV research.

Hope you have a beary safe and great Thursday!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab