TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Reduced HIV prevention research funding could hamper treatment, services for patients

A report released by the HIV Vaccines and Microbicides Resource Tracking Working Group last week said that deceased investment in HIV prevention research in 2013 could hamper HIV research and the introduction of new prevention options.

Investment in HIV prevention research fell by $50 million last year-a four percent decrease-to reach $1.26 billion, according to a UNAIDS press release.

A number of factors have contributed to the decline, including reduced investment by U.S. and European governments, as well as changes in the international development landscape and working pipeline of HIV prevention research.

The U.S. has cut funding in HIV prevention research by $44 million, largely due to government sequestration. Funding by European governments also saw cuts as donors shifted priorities for international development.

Luiz Loures, the deputy executive director of UNAIDS, said funding cuts have come at a time when more services and treatment options are needed.

"Now is not the time to pull back from science, but rather to push forward towards ending the AIDS epidemic," Loures said.

Mitchell Warren, the executive director of HIV advocacy organization AVAC, echoed that sentiment, saying that while it is possible to end the AIDS epidemic by targeting those most at risk, new research and development is crucial "to make a sustained impact on the cycle of new infections."

"We need sustained and flexible funding to ensure that we efficiently develop new options, demonstrate how proven options can be rolled out and deliver what we know works," Warren said.

UNAID said the decline comes during a changing human rights landscape-strict anti-homosexuality laws and other bills criminalize groups at higher risk for HIV/AIDS and make it harder to address issues answered through research.

"A combination of long-term vision, scientific innovation and generous funding has eradicated smallpox, is close to eradicating polio, and has brought us to an era in which a positive HIV test is no longer an automatic death sentence," Margie McGlynn, the president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said. "A vaccine will be essential to the global, comprehensive response that can end AIDS once and for all, and sustained and broadened support will be crucial to its development."