Rwandan First Lady Kagame Hosts HIV/AIDS Vaccine Roundtable
Rwandan first lady Jeannette Kagame last week at the United Nations in New York hosted a roundtable discussion about HIV/AIDS vaccine research and development, Rwanda's New Times reports. Kagame, who also serves as the high representative for the African AIDS Vaccine Programme, said that the "recent setbacks in HIV vaccine trials should not discourage our efforts." She added that a "preventive vaccine is the only long-term sustainable solution to combating HIV." Participants in the roundtable discussion included Seth Berkley, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative; Alan Bernstein, executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise; Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization; and Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS.
HIV/AIDS is "more than 25 years old, and we may spend another 25 years searching for its vaccine," Kagame said, adding, "[B]ut we have to keep the faith -- the same faith that scientists kept for 47 years as they searched and found a vaccine against polio." Berkley and Mark Dybul, U.S. Global AIDS coordinator who administers the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, chaired a session on research and development aimed at developing a vaccine for Africa, according to the Times. Issues discussed during the session included how to encourage countries to increase spending on vaccine development, as well as how to persuade African leaders to integrate vaccine efforts in their national HIV/AIDS control plans.
In addition, Chan called on African governments to commit more of their budgets to HIV/AIDS vaccine research and development. She also called on development partners to support programs that might be outside mainstream efforts, the Times reports (New Times, 6/17).