EU proposals endanger HIV research

5 March 2009

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Category: Policy Issues

how–stethoscope.jpgResearchers have identified a cheap, commonly-used compound that, applied vaginally, can stop monkeys being infected with a monkey version of HIV, according to a study published in the science journal Nature today. You can read more about it on BBC online.

Prof Andrew McMichael, Director of Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, warns:

'The finding demonstrates how critically important studies in monkeys are to the understanding of HIV infection and development of strategies to prevent infection. Current proposals to restrict non-human primate research in the EU could prevent this type of work which could have outcomes of immense benefit to human health.'

Of course more research will be needed before this microbiocide can be tried in humans. The history of research into HIV and AIDS is marked by many successes but is also littered with failures, which many blame on a headlong rush to human trials at the expense of more basic (animal) research.

So the new results are a timely reminder of the concerns of the research community about proposals to change EU Directive 86/609 that governs animal research across the EU.

Elsewhere on this website you can find more details about these concerns. If they were not somewhat complex, we are sure that they would be shared more widely by the general public and particularly by patients. They are being brought to the attention of MEPs.

In general, the draft Directive as proposed by the Commission is poorly worded and will fail to provide the desired harmonisation or improvements in animal welfare. Instead, it could drive research out of Europe to places where animal welfare standards are likely to be lower.

Specific proposals are worrying because they signal an increase in red tape, they threaten certain areas of research - as we have heard  today - and they provide no significant animal welfare benefits.