Gates Foundation and Congressman Davis Address Microbicides and HIV Prevention For Women at National Press Club

February 8, 2006
Washington, D.C.

Today at the National Press Club, Dr. Helene Gayle of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) discussed the state of research into HIV microbicides, which could significantly strengthen HIV prevention efforts by giving women a prevention tool that is under their direct control.

In the U.S, HIV/AIDS is currently the leading cause of death for young African-American women ages 25-34. American women of color are disproportionately impacted by AIDS, with the rate of new HIV infections among black women 19 times greater than among white women. Two out of three women newly diagnosed with AIDS in the U.S. are African American women.

Globally, the face of the AIDS epidemic is also increasingly female. According to UNAIDs, women account for nearly 60% of all people living with HIV. In Africa, young women ages 15-24 are 2.5 times more likely to have HIV than young men. Among teenagers in some African and Caribbean countries, girls are 5 times more likely to be HIV-infected than their male peers. The vast majority of these women have only one mode of exposure to HIV - sex with a husband or boyfriend.

"Women are becoming infected with HIV at alarming rates, and there is an urgent need to develop new prevention options for women," said Dr. Helene Gayle, director of the Gates Foundation's HIV, TB and Reproductive Health program. "If ongoing research finds that microbicides are effective for HIV prevention, they could have a major impact on curbing the AIDS epidemic here in the U.S. and around the world." Congressman Davis, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and a lead co-sponsor of H.R. 3854, the Microbicide Development Act, discussed efforts in Congress to appropriate additional funding for microbicide development.

"The HIV/AIDS epidemic is devastating Africa, ravaging parts of Asia, and continues to take a heavy toll in America - especially in poor communities. There is no cure for AIDS and there is no 'magic bullet' that will 'solve' this crisis. We need a variety of tools to combat this scourge. One important new weapon in the battle to prevent infection could be the microbicide -- a gel or cream which blocks, or immobilizes the virus. Even a partially effective microbicide could avert 2.5 million infections over three years. What is needed to bring a safe, inexpensive and effective microbicide to reality is a substantial increase in public funding for research and testing. That is why I have co-sponsored H.R. 3854 and that is why I am calling for my colleagues, and voters around the country, to support this important legislation," stated Congressman Davis.

Most women living with HIV, both in the US and worldwide, were infected through sex with men. Biologically, women are two to four times more vulnerable than men to sexually transmitted HIV infection. Their risk increases in situations of poverty, abusive relationships or other circumstances in which women cannot control sexual encounters and cannot insist on protective measures like abstinence, mutual monogamy, or condom use.

More on Microbicides:
Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women could apply topically to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Microbicides could offer women the option to increase their protection against HIV/STIs when used with a condom. Most importantly, microbicides could give women who can't insist on condom use a method they can use to reduce their risk of infection. Microbicides may also provide protection against HIV for men.

Scientists have identified more than two dozen products that may have microbicidal properties, including 15 that are now in clinical trials to determine their potential safety and efficacy for human use. Some of these products would be contraceptive while others may enable women to become pregnant. Experts predict that the first effective microbicide could be available in the next five to 10 years.


The Global Campaign for Microbicides is a broad-based, international effort to build support among policymakers, opinion leaders, and the general public for increased investment in microbicides and other user-controlled prevention methods.

The Alliance for Microbicide Development is a global, multidisciplinary, multisectoral coalition founded to accelerate development of microbicides to prevent HIV/AIDS through advocacy, communication, convening, and addressing critical problems in practice and policy.

CONRAD is a cooperating agency of USAID committed to improving reproductive health by expanding the contraceptive choices of women and men and by helping to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Annette Larkin

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