With future of HIV prevention "on the line," AVAC calls for sharper, bolder strategy to end the epidemic

Feb 19, 2015, 15:43 ET from AVAC

NEW YORK, Feb. 19, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a report issued today, AVAC warned that global HIV prevention efforts are in jeopardy due to an absence of strategic targets, resources and specific implementation plans to translate science, slogans and goals into action. The report calls for a robust set of global HIV prevention targets tailored to specific interventions and demands action in several key areas of the global AIDS response, including expanded rollout of daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, and alignment of science and human rights-based agendas.

"We're at a make-or-break moment and the future of HIV prevention is on the line," said Mitchell Warren, AVAC's executive director. "Advances in HIV treatment and prevention research have made it possible to contemplate ending the AIDS epidemic in our lifetimes, but that will only happen with smarter planning, increased resources and greater accountability."

The report was released ahead of the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle (Feb. 23-26), where researchers are expected to present data from several major HIV prevention trials, including studies that could help drive global implementation of PrEP, as well as a key study of a tenofovir-based vaginal gel for women.

Report calls for smart, realistic goals and targets for HIV prevention

Today's report, entitled Prevention on the Line, takes a close look at global goals for HIV prevention and what it will take to make them a reality. UNAIDS recently adopted the broad goals of reducing new HIV infections worldwide from 2.1 million in 2013 to 500,000 and eliminating stigma and discrimination, both by the year 2020.

Drawing upon lessons from WHO's "3 x 5" HIV treatment initiative and other case studies, the AVAC Report concludes that ambitious prevention goals are critical – but that they will only work if they're feasible, well-defined, measurable and supported with adequate resources and political commitment. In the case of the new UNAIDS prevention goals, the report points to a critical need for more specific, interim targets that can be tracked between now and 2020; for better data and monitoring approaches; and for resource allocations that are directly tied to achieving those targets.              

"The UNAIDS prevention goals for 2020 are ambitious and inspiring," said Warren. "But something important is missing from this picture: how to get there. We need a clear path forward, including short-term targets, so we don't wait five years to see if the world is on track. And new targets won't be met – and may even be irrelevant – if we fail to close the growing global funding gap for HIV prevention."

Bold action needed to advance AVAC's agenda to end AIDS

The report also recommends key actions to advance AVAC's three-part agenda to end AIDS. First issued in 2011, the agenda calls for sustained efforts to deliver proven prevention tools, demonstrate and roll out new options such as PrEP and develop long-term solutions such as long-acting ARV-based prevention, vaccines and cure strategies.

Key recommendations for 2015 include:

1.       Align high-impact HIV prevention with human rights and realities. Research has demonstrated the potential of high-impact prevention strategies, including biomedical approaches like HIV treatment for people living with HIV and voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC). But these strategies won't succeed in the real world if we give short shrift to human rights concerns, or if we fail to involve affected communities in designing and implementing prevention programs. Recent experience with treatment and VMMC, in particular, has shown that community buy-in is an essential ingredient of successful rollout and scale-up.

2.       Invest now to scale up access to PrEP. Landmark trials have shown that daily oral PrEP is a powerful HIV prevention tool, and studies at next week's CROI meeting could provide additional support. But the pace of rollout remains far too slow. Demonstration projects are small and disconnected, funding is limited and policy makers are not yet heeding growing demands for access. Funders should invest now in large-scale targeted implementation of PrEP, linked to national programs. National regulatory authorities and health ministries should prioritize licensure and rollout.

3.       Accelerate research into long-term solutions. We must sustain and accelerate research on solutions such as an effective AIDS vaccine, long-acting antiretroviral prevention and treatment and a cure. Just like the rest of the AIDS response, this research needs its own short-term targets, aligned to long-term goals. 

The new report and related resources, including downloadable graphics, are available now at www.avac.org/report2014-15.

About AVAC: Founded in 1995, AVAC is a non-profit organization that uses education, policy analysis, advocacy and a network of global collaborations to accelerate the ethical development and global delivery of AIDS vaccines, male circumcision, microbicides, PrEP and other emerging HIV prevention options as part of a comprehensive response to the pandemic.

 

SOURCE AVAC