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Prevention Research Funding Report 2017: Investment slows and continues to concentrate in a few funders!

[UPDATE]: The new report was a feature story by UNAIDS, Global HIV prevention targets at risk.

Today, the Resource Tracking for HIV Prevention R&D Working Group (Working Group) launched its 14th annual report—which details 2017 investments—at the HIV Research for Prevention (HIVR4P) conference in Madrid.

Flat and/or reduced funding for HIV/AIDS and other global health issues threatens to roll back progress worldwide. There is belated and widespread acknowledgment of a prevention crisis that can only be addressed by taking today’s tools to scale while researching new ones. Given this backdrop, the report is a powerful advocacy tool. This year’s report notes troubling trends in investment flows for biomedical HIV prevention at a moment of major promise in the research landscape. The report tracks the origins, trends and direction of global funding as well as the resulting effect(s) on the prevention research funding landscape.

Key Findings
The report shows that funding for HIV prevention research funding declined for the fifth consecutive year—and by 3.5 percent in 2017 to US$1.13 billion—the lowest total observed since 2005. This reduction was unevenly distributed. Investment increased for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) but decreased for AIDS vaccines, microbicides, prevention of vertical transmission (PMTCT), treatment as prevention (TasP) and female condoms.

The overall decline is driven largely by a reduction in US public-sector funding, with levels dropping by 5.8 percent from 2016 to US$830 million. This is a five-year low in investment. Outside the US public sector, another major decrease came from the European Commission, with funding levels dropping by 47 percent to US$7.6 million in 2017. The impact of these cuts was cushioned by increases from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands. While the number of philanthropic donors decreased from 12 to 10 in 2017, levels of funding grew by 4.1 percent to US$164 million or 14.6 percent of overall funding. This is largely due to the 6.6 percent increase in investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The report notes that the HIV prevention R&D space is at an exciting yet precarious juncture. Ongoing late-stage efficacy trials for preventive AIDS vaccines, long-acting injectable PrEP and antibody-mediated prevention could yield new options in the coming years. Then there’s also the dapivirine vaginal ring that is currently awaiting a regulatory opinion from the European Medical Association. However, the current funding landscape is not set up for sustainability or longevity, which is essential to help ensure that new products move from research and eventually to those who need it. Out of every dollar spent on HIV prevention research, 87 cents are from the two biggest donors, the US public sector and the Gates Foundation—a literal case of having all the coins in one basket. The report advocates for diversifying the funding base and developing long-term funding strategies to support the delivery of innovative prevention tools and a durable end to the epidemic.

The Resource Tracking Working Group hopes these reports will serve as tools for advocacy and be used to inform public policy that supports and helps to accelerate scientific progress. We thank all of the individuals who contributed data to the report and who gave time and effort as trial participants.

Check out the report, share it with your fellow advocates, and be sure to let us know if your organization is a funder or recipient of HIV prevention grants, or if you have further questions!

We are kicking off the launch of the report with a press conference at HIV R4P, which can be viewed live at the conference Facebook page and will be archived on the conference website.