International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) remind us on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD) that the effective AIDS vaccine requested by President Clinton in 1997 is on its way.
“Only a truly effective, preventive HIV vaccine can limit and eventually eliminate the threat of AIDS,”
President Clinton said. Nearly 20 years later, these words still ring true, even as unprecedented global commitment, generous international funding, great scientific breakthroughs have brought tremendous progress in treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
HIV still infects 2 million more men, women and children each year – that’s nearly 6,000 people a day. Since its discovery three decades ago, HIV has infected 78 million people, half of whom have died. Its victims are overwhelmingly girls, women, young people, men having sex with men and other vulnerable or stigmatized people that often lack access to prevention and care. This is especially true in sub-Saharan Africa, where in some communities more than half of the population is living with HIV.
Adding an effective, safe and accessible vaccine to the HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment arsenal will make a world of difference to the millions of people whose lives remain at risk from this disease.
An HIV vaccine will be an unprecedented scientific achievement. For one, HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is a skilled shape shifter that’s able to produce a variety of strains worldwide, to escape from responses the immune system mounts against it, to attack critical immune cells, and to hide in reservoirs from which it can strike again at any time. This makes the prospect of developing a vaccine staggeringly complex when compared with other diseases.
But a renaissance is upon us. Scientific and technological innovation and breakthroughs by passionate scientists and technicians trained to take the fight against the disease through the next generation and beyond are bringing us closer and closer to a vaccine. New approaches to strengthening, guiding and accelerating the body’s immune responses hold much promise and hope of defeating not only HIV but other complex pathogens.
With these challenges and milestones in mind, some of the brightest minds in the field of HIV vaccine research and development have sat down to share the stories, promises and hopes driving their efforts. In honor of them and of HVAD, please enjoy and share this video. Because an HIV vaccine is coming.