From this New York Times article, one of our favorite writers Celia Dugger describes the problem that prevents the saving of lives.
Donors have not committed enough money for even one of the two studies needed to confirm a promising South African trial of the microbicide and get it into women’s hands. Only about $58 million of the $100 million needed for follow-up research has been pledged, according to Unaids, the United Nations AIDS agency. Experts say shifting global health priorities and tight finances in the West are making it hard to raise the rest.
Advocates say any delay could be deadly. Most of the 22 million people infected with H.I.V. in sub-Saharan Africa are women, and about a million women on the continent are infected each year. If subsequent studies find the gel effective, women could use it to protect themselves even when men refuse to use condoms.
Dozens of scientists and public health experts at a conference here last week agreed on the research needed to speed the microbicide to widespread use. They called for two more trials in southern Africa and steps to promote and distribute the vaginal gel, infused with the antiviral drug tenofovir, through family planning programs.
The original study of the gel found that women who used it before and after sex were 39 percent less likely over all to contract H.I.V. than those who used a placebo. Those who used the gel most regularly cut their odds of infection by 54 percent.
Researchers have tried for two decades to find a microbicide to fight H.I.V. transmission. So far, the American and South African governments have come up with a vast majority of the additional research money, while Britain’s Department for International Development, a major supporter of microbicide research, has committed nothing.
Participants in the conference said an agency official said the British government’s priorities were shifting away from AIDS and toward maternal and child health, malaria and tuberculosis.
“H.I.V./AIDS is perceived to be very expensive research, and there’s a sentiment in the U.K. that it’s time to shift priorities,” said Tim Farley, a World Health Organization scientist who attended the conference.