CQ HealthBeat Examines HIV Prevention Research Funding

The global economy has affected HIV/AIDS prevention research, so “scientists and those who fund them are struggling to set priorities among several competing research methods that could slow the spread of the disease, which causes about 2.7 million new infections worldwide a year,” CQ HealthBeat reports. The article looks at the “tension among those searching for effective vaccines and those who are concentrating on other prophylactic methods. With more and more lines of inquiry showing promise, scientists may be victims of their own success.”

In 2009, the U.S. gave $854 million to HIV prevention research efforts globally, with $748 million of that total coming from NIH, according to AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention. The article looks at different HIV prevention methods being researched including vaccines, microbicide gels and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which entails giving antiretrovirals to people before they are infected.

Margaret Johnston of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said of prevention funding, “The issue there is a limitation of resources. … As the budget is level for us, there is only a certain limited number of those grants we can give. We do what we can with the funding we have, but there are always more bright ideas than we have funding to support.”

CQ HealthBeat continues: “Advocates for prevention note that the money spent worldwide to treat people with AIDS dwarfs the amount spent on research to prevent it. Spending on treatment tops more than $40 billion annually, with costs continuing to rise, while estimated funding for prevention research is a little more than $1.1 billion per year.” And as competition for prevention research money increases, “one key question is whether successes in one technique will require further research that could crowd out funding for study in another area.”

The article includes quotes from Mitchell Warren of AVAC, Seth Berkley of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Michel Kazatchkine of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Jose Esparza of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Catherine Hankins of UNAIDS (Adams, 10/6).