HIV-reducing vaginal microbicide stalled without funding

It’s one thing when we don’t know how to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems, like HIV and AIDS infection rates. It’s another when we actually have a realistic solution (or one of many), and we simply can’t figure out how to allocate resources to fund it. Reading that money is the only thing standing between women all over the world and a new vaginal microbicide that significantly reduces HIV infection made me so frickin’ angry. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times piece this weekend:

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.

There’s been so much hype, especially in feminist circles, about how this is the year, or the decade, or even the century, where girls and women are finally trusted with philanthropic dollars and, as a result, manage to organize and truly transform their communities all over the world. But what about this unacceptable situation? Why are the women of sub-Sahran Africa left to fend with the same old dangerous circumstances, instead of having a chance at some real power when it comes to protecting their own health? Is there someway to inspire folks who have resources to spare to part with it, not just when there’s a hurricane or an earthquake, but when there’s a chance to save the lives of millions of women and men in the long run?

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