A Recap of Resources: UNAIDS meeting, HVAD webinars and more

In this round up of updates and resources, you’ll find a read-out of the May UNAIDS high-level meeting in Geneva, two webinars that spotlight critical issues for vaccines R&D and the potential of broadly neutralizing antibodies, and an upcoming webinar looking at alternatives to long-acting PrEP. Read on and join us!

The HIV Response at UNAIDS High-level Meeting
A high-level meeting in Geneva, held by UNAIDS last month on the margins of the World Health Assembly, brought together advocates and experts through the Global HIV Prevention Coalition to discuss where action is needed most to bolster HIV response and advance global health equity. Read AVAC’s summary of the meeting in our latest P-Values blog.

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Vaccines in 2023 and Beyond
AVAC hosted two webinars in commemoration of HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. They offer a snapshot on the state of the field for an HIV vaccine, and explore considerations for the development and delivery of vaccines against future pandemics. Check them out below and read more in our HVAD one-pager!

What’s All the Buzz About: mRNA, manufacturing, vaccines access Local production has emerged as an essential part of the solution for ensuring sustainable and equitable supplies of vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. This webinar explored how local manufacturing and the new mRNA Hub in South Africa could facilitate access and support R&D. Check out the summary and recording.

To bNAb or not to bNAb? The case for broadly neutralizing antibodies AVAC and partners explored the potential role of bNAbs in prevention, the status of research and development, and implications for HIV vaccine research. Check out the summary and recording.

PrEP In Black America Presents Mpox Webinar
PrEP in Black America alongside a panel of experts will discuss the impact of mpox on Black communities, advocacy and mobilization to keep our communities safe, and information on vaccine effectiveness. Tuesday, June 20 at 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM ET. Register here.

PrEP That Booty: The latest on rectal microbicide research for the back door
Most of the coverage of the HIV prevention pipeline is about long-acting, longer-acting, and even longer-acting products that deliver drug throughout the body and require a trained clinician to deliver. However, these attributes are not desirable to many folks, and communities want a range of choices. Learn more about the alternatives at this webinar. Thursday, June 29 at 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM ET. Register here.

HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD) 2023

May 18th is recognized as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD), and this year it is a time of deep reflection and potential. Three major HIV vaccine trials have ended in no efficacy since 2020, but the field knows more than ever that a vaccine is still needed for a durable and sustainable end to the pandemic – and has new insights into possible vaccine strategies that might one day effectively protect against HIV.

This year, AVAC and CASPR partners are casting a spotlight on the many issues and opportunities for HIV vaccine science. See below for three important conversations

Podcast: Listen to AVAC’s PxPulse podcast, Evolving Strategies for an HIV Vaccine: One researcher explains where the field is going and why, featuring Katy Stephenson of Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research. In conversation with AVAC’s Jeanne Baron, Katy provides an accessible breakdown on the status of the field of HIV vaccine research, including details on recent trial results that proved ineffective and what’s next (and exciting) in HIV vaccine advocacy and research.

“The field needs to expand the diversity of scientists who are thinking of new ideas. We haven’t gotten far with the ideas coming out exclusively from the United States and Europe. We need to bring in young scientists of diverse backgrounds all over the world to think of ideas we can’t even imagine.”

“We now know that non-broadly neutralizing antibodies don’t work, but broadly neutralizing antibodies can work. It’s a big milestone in the field to have that kind of knowledge now.”

Katy Stephenson, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research

Webinars: AVAC brought together partners, advocates and other experts for two vaccine webinars. The first, on local manufacturing production, takes on this essential part of the solution for ensuring sustainable and equitable supplies of vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. The second explores the development of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNABs) and their potential in HIV prevention. Check out the recording and slides for both.

What’s All the Buzz About: mRNA, manufacturing, vaccines access – featuring Caryn Fenner of Afrigen Biologics, Ike James of Medicines Patent Pool, and Mike Frick of Treatment Action Group. 

“LMICs (Low- or Middle-Income Country) are not only the consumers of IP (Intellectual Property), we are the generators of IP!” Caryn Fenner, Afrigen Biologics

“It’s important for us in the Global North to know that vaccine technology didn’t start in Global North and was often taken from others.” Mike Frick, Treatment Action Group.

“Engagement and commitment [is needed], not only when a pandemic exists, but long-term commitments are key to follow through on.” Ike James, Medicine Patents Pool

To bNAb or not to bNAb? The case for broadly neutralizing antibodies – featuring Slim Abdool Karim of CAPRISA, Pervin Anklesaria of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Khadija Richards of Wits RHI, and Huub Gelderblom of HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN).

“The scientific complexities of bNAbs require a more attuned focus on community engagement… And it will require a high degree of validating [people’s] lived experience.”, Khadija Richards, Wits RHI.

“The hope is that if bNAbs are effective in prevention, they create a pathway towards a vaccine.” Slim Abdool Karim, CAPRISA

“To close the gap between scientific innovation and globally accessible and affordable bNAb combination products…we certainly need innovation in manufacturing. It is a long-term process and it’s not going to happen overnight. But we do need to start now.” Pervin Anklesaria, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“What I see is actually multiple modes of PrEP available, and then people can make choices depending on what works for them.” Huub Gelderblom of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network on the potential of bNAbs as PrEP

Summary of UNAIDS High-level HIV Prevention Meeting

On May 24, health ministrers from across the globe joined health advocates and experts through the Global HIV Prevention Coalition for a UNAIDS high-level discussion to take stock on progress toward ending the epidemic and how the fight for equity in HIV prevention is instrumental to preparing an effective response to current and future pandemics.

UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima kicked off the meeting by highlighting how punitive legislation around stigma and discrimination are holding back the HIV response from achieving the global targets for new HIV acquisitions. She stressed that meaningful investments on prevention and taking action on harmful policies will help prepare for future pandemics. This applies directly to Uganda’s recent passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023. Read AVAC’s statement, which condemns the policy and shows how discriminatory policies can and will impede efforts to end the epidemic, and the Joint Statement by the Leaders of the Global Fund, UNAIDS and PEPFAR on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.

PEPFAR Acting Principal Deputy US Global AIDS Coordinator Mamadi Yilla addressed the need to aggressively scale-up the world’s already available prevention products and provide access and availability of choice to those who need it most. She said, “We must treat and provide services for the epidemic we have now. Not the one we used to have or the one we wish we had.”

The Global Fund executive director Peter Sands said the process of requesting investments in HIV prevention isn’t always an easy task noting that money travels further by removing stigma, discrimination, and other barriers to access. “Community led interventions are not just effective at reaching the people most in need [key populations], but they’re also on the whole, very cost effective. Providing comprehensive sexual reproductive health services to adolescents has a huge return on investment way beyond HIV.”

AVAC’s Executive Director, Mitchell Warren, who also co-chairs the Global HIV Prevention Coalition, closed out the meeting by summarizing the evening’s discussion—of which he noted many of the parallels and similarities made throughout the meeting, and by also saying that history will judge us harshly on how we act during this pivotal moment in the epidemic. “The things we say in these rooms, the things we say in Geneva don’t prevent infections. They’re the things we do when we walk out of this room that do. This is the best chance we’ve ever had, in probably the entire history of the AIDS pandemic, to reimagine HIV prevention and to do it with equity and with impact.”

Watch the full recording of the meeting here, and read UNAIDS alerts countries to an unprecedented opportunity to stop new HIV infections, end AIDS and prepare for future pandemics.

New Publications On The Dual Prevention Pill And The MPT Landscape

The research journal Frontiers in Reproductive Health has published a special issue on multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) with ten articles exploring the latest thinking on MPT development from “bench to bedside.” Among them, an article co-authored by AVAC’s Kate Segal and partners in our Dual Prevention Pill (DPP) ConsortiumEquipping providers to offer novel MPTs: Developing counseling messages for the Dual Prevention Pill in clinical studies and beyond, reports on recommendations for counseling users on the DPP.

Another article, co-authored by CHAI and other members of the DPP Consortium, Cost-effectiveness of the dual prevention pill for contraception and HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, discusses the results of a modeling study that identified the conditions for the DPP to be cost effective.

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These two articles, and the other articles in the special issue, Multipurpose Prevention Technologies for HIV, STIs & Pregnancies, provide updates on new options being tested, user preference research, strategies for product introduction, and elaborate on where the field needs to go to bring an array of new MPTs to market.

This comes in the midst of growing awareness that HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and reproductive health are inextricably linked. Integrating services is essential to address the pernicious effects of STIs, prevent HIV, and to offer people of childbearing age interventions that fit into their lives. MPT research and development is a central component to offering integrated services. External and internal condoms are the only MPTs currently on the market, but a growing body of evidence makes clear that people all over the world want and need choices to protect against pregnancy and other health threats, such as STIs and HIV. A variety of MPT strategies are in development now, including vaginal rings, pills, micro-array patches, injectables, implants, rectal and vaginal fast-dissolving inserts, and rectal and vaginal gels.

See AVAC.org’s dedicated page on MPTs to learn more, or check out our recent The Choice Agenda webinar on all things MPTs and our MPT factsheet.