The 9th annual HIV Vaccine Awareness Day on May 18, 2006, serves as a somber reminder of the more than 25 million people who have died of AIDS since the first cases were reported nearly 25 years ago. Although research advances have greatly extended the life expectancy of a person infected with HIV today, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS. The 14,000 new HIV infections that occur in the world every day underscore the urgent need for a safe and effective vaccine to prevent HIV infection.
Basic research has helped us understand how HIV causes AIDS and how the immune system attempts to contain infection. This knowledge has catalyzed significant progress in the development of vaccines for HIV. Since 1987, dedicated investigators supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have enrolled more than 23,000 volunteers in 96 HIV vaccine clinical trials that have tested at least 58 different vaccine candidates.
However, an effective vaccine eludes us. We must continue to accelerate efforts in both basic and clinical research to design promising new vaccine candidates and to test their potential for preventing HIV infection. Such research efforts are progressing with a renewed spirit of domestic and international cooperation. Examples of new collaborative initiatives include the Global HIV/AIDS Vaccine Enterprise, an alliance of independent organizations around the world dedicated to accelerating the development of a preventive HIV vaccine; the Center for HIV-AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI), a consortium of universities and academic medical centers with the goal of solving major problems in HIV vaccine design and development; and the Partnership for AIDS Vaccine Evaluation (PAVE), a voluntary consortium of U.S. government agencies and key U.S. government-funded organizations involved in the development and evaluation of preventive HIV/AIDS vaccines, including the conduct of HIV vacci ne clinical trials. In addition, working in close partnership with these groups, the NIAID Vaccine Research Center continues its efforts to develop novel vaccine candidates and to evaluate their potential for inducing protective immunity.
Local communities also have joined the effort to develop and test HIV vaccines. As part of NIAID's HIV Vaccine Communications Campaign, 20 community-based organizations across the U.S. are working to educate their communities about HIV vaccine research. These organizations work hand-in-hand with the NIAID-sponsored HIV Vaccine Trials Network to ensure that their communities are informed and involved in the many aspects of clinical research. The need for volunteers to participate directly in clinical research trials, to provide input for the research process, to educate local communities and to bolster support for HIV vaccine research has never been greater.
Today, we acknowledge and thank the thousands of volunteers, community members, health professionals and scientists who conduct and participate in HIV vaccine research. We sincerely appreciate their selfless contributions to the global effort to find a vaccine for HIV.
On May 18, show your support for HIV vaccine research by wearing your AIDS ribbon upside-down to symbolize a "V" for vaccines. Please take this opportunity to learn more about HIV vaccine research and to educate someone you know about the importance of developing a vaccine for HIV.
For more information about HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, vaccine research or HIV Vaccine Awareness Day events at the local level, visit www3.niaid.nih.gov/news/events/HVAD/ or call 1-800-HIV-0440 (bilingual English/Spanish).
Dr. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Johnston is assistant director for HIV/AIDS vaccines at NIAID and director of the Vaccine and Prevention Research Branch of the Division of AIDS within NIAID. Dr. Nabel is the director of the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center of NIAID.
The HIV Vaccine Communications Campaign, an initiative of the Division of AIDS, aims to create an environment in which HIV affected communities and individuals are more aware, educated and supportive of HIV vaccine research and have more positive attitudes towards clinical trial volunteerism. This year's campaign makes broad comparisons between other great causes and the search to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic through the discovery of a preventive HIV vaccine. The campaign invites the public to "Be the Generation" that ends AIDS by learning more about the search for an HIV vaccine. This new Web site was created to provide the public with a single source of information about the campaign and preventive HIV vaccine research.
Learn more about the Campaign and preventive HIV vaccine research by visiting the Web site, www.bethegeneration.org.