National HIV Vaccine Awareness Day
May 18 is National HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, an annual
observance to educate communities about the importance of preventive HIV
vaccine research. The U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately 50,000 Americans
become infected with HIV each year. A
safe and effective vaccine would be the ultimate weapon in the HIV prevention arsenal.
National HIV Vaccine Awareness Day also offers an
opportunity to thank the volunteers, scientists, health care workers, and
community educators who make clinical trials of HIV vaccines possible. One such trial took place in Thailand in 2009
and provided what Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the first proof of concept that a
vaccine could in fact impact HIV acquisition.While the results were modest with 31 percent efficacy, the Thai trial left the research community optimistic. “I think we can
say, not with absolute certainty but with some degree of confidence, that we
will ultimately develop a vaccine to prevent acquisition of HIV infection,” Dr.
Fauci said in a 2011 interview with amfAR.
For HIV vaccine research to progress, however, increased
funding from the U.S. government is necessary. The Obama Administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 would once again flat-fund the National Institutes of Health, which
cover the cost of clinical vaccine trials like the one in Thailand. Without a significant increase in HIV/AIDS
research dollars from the federal government, the development of a safe and
effective HIV vaccine will remain a distant prospect. “We will only succeed in our quest to end
AIDS if we make the proper investments and find the political will to do it,”
said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost.
Since its inception, amfAR has awarded 79 grants, totaling more than $7 million, supporting work on vaccine research.
On May 18, community activities will be held around the
country to remind Americans of the importance of HIV vaccine research and urge
the federal government to make AIDS research a priority. For additional information on National HIV Vaccine
Awareness Day events, click here.