Vaccine Briefs

US Congress Proposes Major Increase in Funds for Global AIDS

In June, the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate passed legislation authorizing significantly more spending by the US government on HIV/AIDS programs in developing countries. The bill authorizes US$2.1 billion in US spending on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in the next fiscal year (FY2003), which includes about $1.5 billion on HIV/AIDS, and over $2.5 billion for the three diseases ($1.8 billion for HIV/AIDS) in FY2004. US spending on AIDS programs in developing countries this fiscal year is $988 million.

The bill also requires the Administration to draft a 5-year strategic plan for addressing global AIDS, including plans for broadening access to AIDS vaccines once they are available. It also calls for increased US support for IAVI (from $10 million now to $12 million in FY2003 and $15 million in FY2004). Chief sponsors of the legislation include long-time champions of HIV/AIDS vaccine research, Sens. John Kerry and Bill Frist. Majority Leader Tom Daschle is a co-sponsor.

At press time, the full Senate had not taken up the bill, although it was reported to be on a fast track for consideration. Passage by the full Senate is expected, at which point the bill must be reconciled with a somewhat different House version passed in December 2001, and then fully funded. The chief sponsor of the House legislation, Rep. Henry Hyde, welcomed the Senate bill when it was introduced this spring.

On 20 June, President Bush announced an initiative to spend $500 million over three years to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The proposed spending includes $200 million recently approved by Congress in an emergency supplemental spending bill for FY2002. The remainder must be approved by Congress. The program will be focused on 12 countries in Africa and the Caribbean.

AAVP Launches Program at International Gathering

On 3-4 June more than 100 of Africa’s top scientists and policymakers, as well as representatives from donor organizations and the international scientific community gathered in Cape Town, South Africa for an expanded launch of the African AIDS Vaccine Programme (AAVP; see IAVI Report, March/April 2002). At the meeting, AAVP announced that it was seeking US$233 million over seven years to accelerate research, development and testing of AIDS vaccines on the African continent. In response, the 15 countries of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) each announced pledges of $50,000 a year for 2 years.

The funds will be used to support work by partners already active on the continent, especially in preparing for clinical trials. Emphasis will go to training personnel and strengthening laboratory infrastructure and ethical and regulatory frameworks. The programme’s strategic milestones call for Africa to host four Phase I/II trials by 2005 (including those already ongoing), completion of an African Phase III by 2009 and generation of plans by 2008 for assuring availability of future vaccines in Africa.

Awa Coll-Seck, Senegal’s Minister of Health and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, South Africa’s Minister of Health, were guests of honor.

AIDS Vaccine Delivery Forum Held at African Economic Summit

On 5 June, IAVI and the Global Health Initiative (GHI) of the World Economic Forum co-organized a forum on AIDS vaccine delivery at the African Economic Summit 2002 in Durban, South Africa. The forum featured a case-study adapted from the WEF summit in New York in February 2002 (see IAVI Report, March/April 2002) and was attended by over 30 people, including Njongonkulu Ndungane, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, and the South African minister of health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

Seth Berkley, IAVI President, Tore Godal, Executive Secretary of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (see Interview, p.10), and Helen Rees, Executive Director of the University of Witwatersrand, acted as discussion leaders for a 2-hour session that examined the needs and concerns of African industry leaders around preparing for the manufacture and eventual delivery of an AIDS vaccine. Godal urged pharmaceutical companies in the developing world to build capacity to manufacture already-licensed vaccines, which would benefit their countries and help build manufacturing expertise before an AIDS vaccine is approved.

IAVI and GHI will hold a similar forum at the Indian regional WEF meeting in November, and regional participants will report back at the annual WEF meeting in Davos, Switzerland in 2003.

AVAC Releases Report on State of AIDS Vaccine Development

On 17 May, the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) released its fifth annual report on the state of global AIDS vaccine development since President Clinton’s 1997 declaration of an AIDS vaccine by 2007 as a national goal.

Five Years & Counting; Science, Urgency, and Courage” charts the past year’s progress and setbacks, and looks ahead to the next steps. The report advocates expanding efforts to move diverse types of vaccine candidates into clinical trials and to accelerate clinical testing—for example, through trials that combine aspects of Phase II and III studies and might hint at efficacy prior to a full Phase III trial, and streamlining regulatory procedures for approving trials and licensing vaccines. AVAC also calls for increased funding for trials, and more support by and to communities where trials are planned.

At the same time, AVAC announced the creation of The AVAC Fund to provide small-scale emergency funds for clinical sites and communities involved with trials, especially in developing countries. The grants (with a maximum of US$2,000 each) are intended for expenses such as medical or lab supplies that are commonly under-budgeted. AVAC will begin accepting applications once The Fund has raised US$10,000 (see www.avac.org for information on donating).

In the wake of 9/11, as $1.7 billion was swiftly dedicated to defense against bioterrorism, “Five Years” urges amplified public pressure—even outrage—to be exerted on government, industry and ourselves to ensure that momentum and focus in the search for an AIDS vaccine are not lost.