NIAID, Others Mark HIV Vaccine Awareness Day
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and agencies around the world today celebrate the fourth annual HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, honoring the thousands of volunteers worldwide who have "literally rolled up their sleeves to receive an experimental vaccine" to prevent HIV. Established in 1997 when President Clinton "challenged" researchers to develop an effective HIV vaccine within the next decade, HIV Vaccine Awareness Day seeks to "raise awareness" about vaccine trials, why a vaccine is the "best hope" for curbing the spread of HIV and how "ordinary" people can participate in international efforts to stem the pandemic." Since 1987, more than 3,600 volunteers in NIAID-sponsored vaccine trials have helped test 29 different vaccine candidates, and 6,000 additional volunteers have assisted researchers in testing the "safety and potential benefit" of other prevention strategies such as topical microbicides (NIAID release, 5/14). In a statement marking the day, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID Assistant Director for HIV/AIDS Vaccines Dr. Peggy Johnston and NIAID Director of the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center Dr. Gary Nobel expressed their "deep gratitude" to vaccine trial participants, writing, "Scientific accomplishments in HIV vaccine development cannot be separated from the personal contributions of those who volunteer for medical research studies. Progress depends upon the commitment of the people who participate. They deserve the world's recognition and gratitude" ( Fauci et al. statement, 5/18).
AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition Releases Report
In conjunction with HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, an independent organization that does not accept government or industry funding, has released its report, "Six Years and Counting: Can a Shifting Landscape Accelerate an AIDS Vaccine?" AVAC states that over the past year an HIV vaccine "really began to seem possible" with "significan[t]" advances in research and a renewed dedication to vaccine research on the part of government leaders. But despite these advances, "significant scientific and political roadblocks remain," the report states. AVAC recommends an increase in community-based efforts to raise awareness of vaccine trials, as well as a commitment to "give higher priority to and put more resources into" vaccine development. AVAC calls on the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, NIAID's Vaccine Research Center and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and other government-sponsored vaccine efforts to "coordinate" their efforts. The report also:
- suggests vaccine researchers pay greater attention to the "need for mucosal protection as a vaccine strategy";
- recommends that NIAID "allow and encourage" adolescents to participate in vaccine trials;
- recommends that the Bush administration "take ownership of the HIV vaccine challenge" and provide "global public leadership" on the issue;
- urges Congress to pass the Vaccines for the New Millenium Act (HR 1504);
- asks public, as well as private institutions to sign off on a "Participant's Bill of Rights" for vaccine trials;
- encourages the CDC, NIH and private vaccine researchers to attempt to enroll more "representative participation" in trials, including more minorities and others "disproportionately affected" by HIV/AIDS;
- recommends the FDA "streamline" the investigational process for new vaccine candidates and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office "advocate harmonization of international patent laws" to "encourage" vaccine development and make the resulting vaccines more "affordable";
- suggests that government and other developed nations "support expanded efforts to provide highly active antiretroviral therapy in developing nations" because it is "neither practical nor morally tenable to promote HIV vaccine research without looking for opportunities to expand access to HIV therapies" ("Six Years and Counting: Can a Shifting Landscape Accelerate an AIDS Vaccine?" May 2001).
IAVI, Yahoo! Team Up to Mobilize Support
In an effort to mobilize international support for the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine, IAVI and Yahoo! are launching today a global online campaign "consisting of a series of four banner ads [on Yahoo.com] linked to IAVI advocacy splash pages." Yahoo! became the first major corporate sponsor of IAVI in January when the company pledged $5 million over three years to the initiative. Dr. Seth Berkeley, president and CEO of IAVI, said, "While a preventive vaccine for AIDS offers the best hope of ending the pandemic, a broad-based global movement is necessary to help overcome the scientific, political and economic challenges that lie ahead." Visitors to the IAVI Web site can sign a Global Call for Action petition to be presented at the June U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS in New York, volunteer for ongoing clinical trials and learn more about IAVI's efforts to "accelerate development and delivery of a preventive AIDS vaccine for the world" (IAVI release, 5/18).
Vaccine Awareness Day Events and Volunteer Information
The HIV Vaccines Trials Network, an organization of international scientists devoted to HIV vaccine development based at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, will today host a "variety" of activities designed to "raise awareness" about HIV vaccine trials at sites across the United States and in other countries. For information on today's activities or how to enroll in HIV vaccine studies call the AIDS Clinical Trials Information Service at 1-800-243-7012 or log on to http://www.hvtn.org (HVTN release, 5/15).