The United States and South Africa have agreed to co-host a summit on microbicides next year.  The meeting follows this year?s successful trial of CAPRISA 004, a gel containing the antiretroviral Tenofovir, which was shown to protect women against HIV infection.  The research on CAPRISA 004 was conducted in South Africa.

A successful microbicide would offer women a new means of protecting themselves in relationships where they often have little say in whether condoms are used.

On Monday, November 29th, USAID, the U.S. development agency hosted a meeting a microbicides that included representatives from many different sectors.

?This was an excellent meeting.  We brought together stakeholders from across the U.S. government, from the Republic of South Africa, from the advocacy communities and also from different market perspectives,? says Judy Manning, USAID?s health development officer.

Discussions included rolling out microbicide products once trials show high efficacy rates.

?It?s a historic time,? says manning, ?We?re really moving from proof of concept of not only a vaginal tenofovir gel, but also an oral daily pill, toward implementation and rollout.?

A recent study showed that pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP, protected men against HIV infection.  In the study, HIV negative men took an antiretroviral pill as a means of preventing infection.  A similar study is yet to be done on women.

South Africa

The planned South Africa microbicide meeting will focus on the detailed implementation of strategy for a one-percent tenofovir gel.  Manning says the goal is to hold the meeting in early 2011.

?We do want to hold this in South Africa and we?re very pleased to announced that WHO (World Health Organization) and UNAIDS will be co-convening this meeting with us, which is really critical given the essential role they play in developing the normative guidelines that countries follow for the introduction of new prevention methods.?

Manning says it?s a first for USAID in global health efforts ?to have partners in country already in place and working on a plan for rollout.  I don?t think we?ve ever had this with a product that USAID has helped support the development of before.  At least not in reproductive health, which is the area that I know.?