The Population Council today announced it was awarded a cooperative agreement from the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) Office of HIV and AIDS: "Non-ARV Based Combination Microbicide that Blocks HIV and Other STIs." The agreement, made possible by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), supports the development of safe, effective, and acceptable non-antiretroviral (ARV) microbicides for the prevention of HIV and sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), such as herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). The five-year, $20-million initiative will also identify regulatory pathways to advance the Council's non-ARV microbicides into clinical testing.
More than 35 million people are infected with HIV globally. In sub-Saharan Africa-the center of the global epidemic-women account for nearly 60 percent of all people living with HIV. Microbicide products that protect women against HIV and other STIs that increase susceptibility to HIV would help address these health risks, promote affordability of services, and make positive contributions to global public health.
"Non-ARV microbicides have the potential to deliver an additional prevention option to women and men at risk of HIV, and contribute to meeting the diverse needs for HIV and STI prevention globally," said Naomi Rutenberg, PhD, Council vice president and director of the HIV and AIDS program. "We look forward to advancing these innovative products to help safeguard the health of those at high risk for acquiring HIV."
A non-ARV microbicide may offer multiple advantages over ARV microbicides by eliminating the need for HIV screening prior to and during use; reducing the emergence of drug-resistant HIV cases that may compromise subsequent treatment with ARVs; and potentially leading to an over-the-counter product, which would increase accessibility for people in high-demand and low-resource settings.
Drs. Melissa Robbiani and Thomas Zydowsky of the Population Council will be the primary investigators.