They’re a funny bunch, those PATH folks. I gave them credit for having long been advocates for an anti-HIV microbicide … and they take exception!
Here is a response from Dr. Chris Elias, president and CEO of PATH:
I think you have given PATH–and me–a bit too much credit, however. The recently announced results were the result of the vision and hard work of many people and institutions, most notably Salim Karim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim of CAPRISA, the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa.
The letter continues:
One of the earliest advocates for woman-controlled HIV prevention methods was Dr. Zena Stein at Columbia University. Dr. Stein started writing about the need for such “virucides” in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Salim and Quarraisha started working with Dr. Stein in the early 1990s and, as noted in the recent announcement, continue to have an affiliation with Columbia University.
Lori Heise, then at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, and I, then working at the Population Council, built upon Dr. Stein’s efforts. Lori and I suggested changing the term from “virucide” to “microbicide” to reflect an aspiration that woman-controlled vaginal prevention methods should be broadly microbicidal (i.e., not just prevent viral infection). The name change stuck.
Let me also clarify that PATH was not directly involved in the CAPRISA study–unless you want to count our cheerleading from the sidelines. PATH does have an active program of research and development on microbicide applicators–which will be important for ultimately delivering an effective microbicidal product at a reasonable cost.
We are in touch with Drs. Karim and others in the field about how best to move from the exciting results presented this week in Vienna to widely accessible products for women who need them throughout the world. There is still a ways to go to realize the public health benefits of this promising HIV prevention approach. PATH will contribute where it can. Meanwhile, this week we are celebrating this important milestone brought to us by our South African colleagues and their supporters and collaborators.
Christopher J. Elias, MD, MPH
President and CEO, PATH