Mapping Pathways is a multi-national project to develop and nurture a research-driven, community-led global understanding of the emerging evidence base around the adoption of antiretroviral-based prevention strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The evidence base is more than results from clinical trials - it must include stakeholder and community perspectives as well.

30 December 2011

Mapping Pathways 2011: The year in voices

Original content from the Mapping Pathways blog team

“We are on the verge of a significant breakthrough in the AIDS response. The vision of a world with zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths has captured the imagination of diverse partners, stakeholders and people living with and affected by HIV. New HIV infections continue to fall and more people than ever are starting treatment. With research giving us solid evidence that antiretroviral therapy can prevent new HIV infections, it is encouraging that 6.6 million people are now receiving treatment in low- and middle-income countries: nearly half those eligible.” - Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS Executive Director, World AIDS Day report

Earlier this month, WHO and UNAIDS released a World AIDS Day report providing a snapshot of goals and progress made in 2011 toward HIV/AIDS prevention. We thought we’d provide a snapshot of the Mapping Pathways project as well – but through the voices of some of the most memorable and inspiring people we spoke with this year.

“It’s been like Christmas every day since July at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna when the CAPRISA study results came out… We’ve gotten over this first hurdle; we’ve proven that we can create new ways to prevent HIV through the use of ARVs taken orally or applied topically but now we have to figure out how to get that pill, or gel, or whatever into the right hands in the right place at the right time. We’re grappling with all the problems that come with success.” - Jim Pickett: ‘Success! Now what?’
“There is a threat – still distant but definitely visible – that we will lose this astonishing success through complacency… We can make AIDS rare – and eliminate it entirely from rich countries – using technologies that we already have. The question is whether we have the will to do it.”  - Mark Chataway: Using antiretrovirals to prevent new infections

“There’s still so much we don’t know, and these are open questions rather than being settled questions… we can’t prove that the intervention worked, and we can’t prove that the intervention didn’t work … There are still things to be learned.”  - Julie Davids: FEM-PrEP closure update – What does ‘futility’ mean exactly?

“I think whenever the field starts to go on emotion, we get into trouble… Human behavior keeps messing up the plot.”  - Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker: Of Mice, men, and microbicide trials   

 “I put the word MSM on the board, and do you know what one woman participant said? She said, ‘By MSM do you mean men who have sex with men? Yes, they must die; and if not, they must be killed!’ I was so taken aback. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is where the advocacy has to start from.’” - Brian Kanyemba: A snapshot of advocacy in Africa

“The level of efficacy seen in the HPTN052 study is stunning, and is extremely important on several fronts. First, in terms of the potential of this strategy to reduce transmission, it is clearly an effective option… Of course, there are some issues associated with this strategy as well.”  - Dr. Joe Romano: Thoughts on the microbicide pipeline and the recent HPTN 052 results

“I believe that it is a political, economic and human tragedy that the first time our country has had a national HIV/AIDS strategy is exactly at the same time that we’re being told there are no resources to put it fully into place... We are, in significant ways, being restrained from putting our best minds and hearts at the forefront of this effort. When we get to the end of the day, there are good ideas, and then there are good ideas that are fully funded.”  - Julie Davids: The economic effect of HIV/AIDS in the US

“Sex sells. People in the commercial world use sex to sell things like cars, toothpaste, pens…almost anything! Why not use sex to sell safer sex?”  - Anne Philpott: How sexy sex can help prevent HIV transmission

“Working with vulnerable populations like transgender individuals and men who have sex with men (MSM) was really an eye opener. These are people who often have nothing to their name (often not even a roof over their head), are disowned by society and their families and are completely discriminated and stigmatized against. Yet a number of them were keen to help spread awareness about HIV/AIDS, prevention options and vaccines so that others may benefit from the information and not get infected with HIV. This degree of humanity is truly remarkable.”  - Dr. Sonali Kochhar: PrEP in India

“My sense is that many people are still very uncomfortable and not quite able to figure out why we’re talking about PrEP in the Indian context. Many senior people in the field feel the focus needs to be on TLC+.”  - Anjali Gopalan: Notes from India – concerns and challenges around PrEP

“The matchmaking started because people living with HIV don’t disclose their status to their parents. In India, when the boy is 30 or the girl is 24-25, the parents want them to get married. They start looking for partners and the person who is infected is unable to talk freely to them and say, ‘Look, I have HIV and I can’t get married.’ That’s when they come to me and ask, ‘My parents are planning to get me married to an HIV-negative person – now what do I do?’ So we say okay, we’ll look for someone for you."  - Dr. Suniti Solomon: A modern-day HIV love story

“Clearly if people abstained from sex, or had sex with partners they knew to be uninfected, or used condoms 100% of the time, we wouldn’t have the HIV epidemic. But obviously, spreading billboards all over the world has not cut it.” - Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker: Safe-sex education – too little, too much?

“Placebo controlled trials are essential for the evaluation of the safety and efficacy of new products.  The placebo control group in a clinical trial provides the means of establishing any specific safety issues with a product, as well as the effectiveness of the product at preventing HIV transmission… Once a microbicide product has been adequately shown to prevent HIV transmission, it will no longer be possible to run placebo controlled trials, and the “window” will be closed."  - Dr. Joe Romano: What happens when the ‘placebo window’ closes?

“It boggles me that I still have to make the case for understanding the relational and contextual nature of HIV transmission and the need to recognize that people and technologies are interactive and interdependent."  - Judith Auerbach: Addressing social drivers of HIV/AIDS

“Even among groups of experts, I have noticed people getting confused – misapplying data, conclusions, or assumptions...”  -  Lori Heise: Tricky Terminology in HIV Prevention – Microbicides and Oral PrEP

“Giving gay men more information about their health only empowers them to make informed decisions. The fear that gay men will take PrEP, forego condoms and become out of control disease spreaders, harkens to the days when men feared women would become crazed nymphomaniacs thanks to the new birth control pill.” -Alex Garner: Open letter Urges that PrEP debate should be based on ‘facts not misinformation’

“Firstly, we need to work out whether this result is true or not. But even if it is true, it’s quite possible that we need to balance the benefits of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy against the small increased risk of acquiring HIV infection.”  - Dr. Tim Farley: Hormonal contraceptives and HIV – the grey area

“It’s really critical we know what research is and is not being done, what evidence does and does not exist, so that we have a solid understanding of the implications of these technologies in various social, economic, cultural, and political contexts that exist in different countries. It’s only then that we can begin to think about investing in them and the best ways to implement them."  - Molly Morgan Jones: Mapping Pathways so far – the ‘literature review’

“If you’re talking about early treatment, you’ll have one person saying, ‘This is a quantum leap from where we are now, and it’s operationally impossible.’ And then you’ll have another person saying, ‘Well, if you have cancer, the doctor doesn’t wait till you’re half dead to give you the treatment, and so we should have been doing this years ago.’ And both are very valid points; it’s just how do you get those two people, who are equally important in making this happen, make it happen?” - Daniella Mark: It’s a question of ‘how’ in South Africa Part 1 & Part 2

“PrEP … is hard as hell to figure out. Hard as hell. But that’s what we have to do – we have to be right there, at the hardest place possible, trying to get the answers.” - Jim Pickett: Triumphs and Trials in 2011

[Content that is linked from other sources is for informational purposes and should not construe a Mapping Pathways position.]

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