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Zeda Rosenberg: determined to empower women to prevent HIV infection

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 02 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4424
  1. Dinsa Sachan
  1. New Delhi, India
  1. dinsasachan{at}

The researcher started a non-profit venture to develop vaginal microbicides for HIV prevention in Africa, reports Dinsa Sachan

In her early 20s, Zeda Rosenberg went from house to house looking for cats. She didn’t know then that, in a few years, this feline hunting exercise would lead her to the frontline of AIDS prevention research.

She had just finished a graduate course in epidemiology and was training to be a virologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her laboratory was working to characterise feline leukaemia virus, which is part of the same family of viruses as HIV—retroviruses.

Today Rosenberg heads the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), a non-profit organisation that is developing a microbicide eluting vaginal ring that has been shown to prevent HIV infection in women.

Feminism and pharmaceuticals

Many of the first cases of AIDS were among men who have sex with men (MSM)1 but there are now as many women as men with HIV worldwide,2 and women account for 56% of new cases of infection among adults in sub-Saharan Africa.3

Rosenberg started working on microbicides while at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Washington, DC, in 1994. Pressure from activists encouraged scientists like her to start working on methods for preventing HIV infection in women.

“The focus then was on MSM but, just knowing sexually transmitted infections, we realised that women were going to bear the brunt of the AIDS epidemic,” Rosenberg told The BMJ, referencing women’s relative financial …

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