Advocates for microbicides hope to use recently introduced federal legislation to educate members of Congress and the general public about this potential new class of products for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV. A 1999 report by The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), Microbicides: A New Defense Against Sexually Transmitted Diseases, presents findings from an AGI survey that asked a nationally representative sample of women about their perceived risk of contracting STDs and their potential interest in using microbicides. At least 21 million sexually active U.S. women would be interested in such products, if they were available, according to the survey ("Campaign to Accelerate Microbicide Development for STD Prevention Gets Under Way," February 2000).
On March 10, Rep. Constance Morella (R-MD)—along with Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), James Greenwood (R-PA), Sue Kelly (R-NY) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)—introduced The Microbicides Development Act of 2000, which would increase federal investment from less than $25 million currently to $50 million in FY 2001, $75 million in FY 2002 and $100 million in FY 2003. The bill would also require the director of the National Institutes of Health to establish a program to support microbicide research and to develop a five-year implementation plan.
The legislation was introduced just three days before the first international conference on microbicides convened in Washington, DC. Entitled Microbicides 2000, the meeting was attended by over 600 clinicians, researchers, educators and activists from around the globe. Conference attendees heard presentations on the practical applications for and gaps in the current research, as well as the cultural, ethical and economic obstacles toward development of microbicides. Many attendees also participated in a Microbicides Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. Organized by the Global Campaign for STD Prevention Alternatives for Women, participants visited congressional offices in support of increased funding for microbicide research and development.