A broader base of funders is needed to sustain support for HIV prevention research, which continues to make breakthroughs that could help to end the AIDS epidemic, according to a report released on Saturday.
The report, entitled From Research to Reality: Investing in HIV Prevention Research in a Challenging Environment, was released on Saturday at the 7th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The report found that while steady research and development progress for pre-exposure prophylaxis using antiretroviral drugs, treatment as prevention and HIV vaccines confirmed the significant role science must play in ending the AIDS epidemic, funding has essentially plateaued.
"Science has a critical role to play in ending the AIDS epidemic," Luiz Loures, the deputy executive director of UNAIDS, said. "The potential returns on investments are hugely important and I strongly urge donors to make funding for research and development a top priority."
Last year, funders invested $1.31 billion in research and development for six key prevention areas, a six percent growth over funding in 2011. The report found a significant portion of the increase was likely the result of improved reporting by multiple donors.
The U.S. is the largest public sector funder of HIV prevention research, spending $925 million last year. Of the investment, 70 percent was spent in HIV prevention research and development.
"As the report highlights, the HIV vaccine field has been a leader in catalyzing innovative partnerships across the public, private, philanthropic and academic sectors," Margaret McGlynn, the president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said. "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."
The report also went into additional data from the Thailand-based RV144 vaccine that provided clues about how the vaccine worked, increased focus on faster rollout of adult male circumcision for maximum prevention impact, planning for demonstration projects of daily oral PrEP, large-scale trials of treatment as prevention and data from the testing of trial tenofovir products.
"There is a growing consensus that we can begin to end the AIDS epidemic if we develop and deploy the right tools," Mitchell Warren, the executive director at Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, said. "But we won't be able to make a sustained impact on the cycle of new infections without aggressive roll out of new prevention options - voluntary medical male circumcision, PrEP, treatment as prevention, microbicides and eventually vaccines. We need sustained and flexible funding to ensure that we efficiently deliver what we know works, demonstrate how proven options can be rolled out, and develop new options."
The report was the ninth annual report from the HIV Vaccines and Microbicides Resource Tracking Working Group.