At July’s world AIDS conference, researchers lined up to hype the womanly wonders of HIV-fighting vaginal gels. Zeda Rosenberg, MD and CEO of the International Partnership for Microbicides, touted the only female-controlled HIV weapon by warning: “For women worldwide, being young and married are the most significant risk factors for HIV.” (Male infidelity and female inability to negotiate condom use are the leading causes of female transmission in the developing world.) Even the U.N.’s Kofi Annan took ’cides, demanding them now.
Unfortunately, they’re still five years away. Sixty contenders—six entering late-stage trials this year—are duking it out in international trials. But the funding has hardly gelled. In July, the House boosted U.S. research by $8 million, to $30 million, but advocates aren’t satisfied. “We must strike a balance between [testing],” says Trisha Lamphear of the Alliance for Microbicide Development, “and developing the next microbicides in the pipeline.” Instead, we’re dismissing them—as female trouble.