Microbicides bill introduced on International Women's Day

March 8, 2007 by PATH

Legislation to push forward women's HIV prevention methods

Ellen Cole, 206.285.3500, ecole@path.org, or Lori Heise, lheise@path.org, 301.580.5344

March 8, 2007, Washington, DC—The Global Campaign for Microbicides, based at PATH, is pleased to announce the introduction of the Microbicide Development Act of 2007. The bill is being introduced in commemoration of International Women’s Day by senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and other supporters.

"It is time to speak the truth and acknowledge the facts,” stated Senator Obama. "It's women who are biologically and socially more susceptible to the HIV infection, in part as a consequence of biology, but mostly because of uneven power between the sexes around the world. It is a fact that marriage is no protection from HIV transmission for women.”

The Microbicide Development Act would establish a dedicated microbicide research and development branch at the National Institutes of Health and strengthen microbicide activity at the United States Agency for International Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Regarded as one of the most promising new technologies to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women could use to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.

"Passage of this bill will bring us closer to the goal of getting critical prevention tools into the hands of women,” stated Lori Heise, director of the Global Campaign for Microbicides. “Current prevention options are simply not enough. We need user-initiated HIV prevention strategies that take into account women's real needs and vulnerabilities.”

Women and girls are increasingly affected by HIV/AIDS in every region of the world. Worldwide, more women are getting infected with HIV than men—the majority by their male partners. In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly three quarters of young people ages 15 to 24 living with HIV are women.

"This is not just an issue for women in developing countries,” notes Dazon Dixon Diallo, founder and CEO of SisterLove, Inc. “We need microbicides right here at home too, because many of the issues that place black women at risk are the same the world over. AIDS is the number one cause of death among African American women aged 25 to 34.”

The feminization of the AIDS epidemic calls for a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS that includes social and economic empowerment for women and increased access to existing prevention methods as well as research into new prevention technologies, complemented by appropriate treatment, care, and support.