May 18, 2005
There is an urgent need to develop a safe and effective HIV vaccine. HIV/AIDS continues to devastate communities in the United States and around the world. In the United States, more than 40,000 people become infected with HIV each year. Individuals from racial/ethnic minority communities continue to be disproportionately affected by the epidemic: minorities constitute more than 70 percent of all AIDS cases but less than 30 percent of the nation's population. Approximately 40 million people are living with HIV around the world, with more than 5 million new infections each year. To date, more than 20 million men, women and children have died from AIDS worldwide.
Diversity is needed across all aspects of HIV vaccine research. While people of color are overrepresented among U.S. HIV/AIDS cases, they are underrepresented in U.S. preventive HIV vaccine trials. We need to ensure that a diverse group of volunteers is enrolled in clinical trials so we will be able to show that a vaccine works for everyone regardless of their race, ethnicity or gender. Therefore, all communities are needed to participate in the research process -- as volunteers, community educators/recruiters, researchers and community advocates.
A comprehensive approach to controlling the HIV/AIDS pandemic includes prevention strategies, provision of care and treatment, and HIV vaccine research. Prevention efforts have reduced the number of HIV infections in certain countries worldwide, and advances in HIV therapy have improved and extended the lives of many people living with HIV/AIDS. However, existing prevention approaches and treatment are only part of the solution; a preventive HIV vaccine will be an essential tool in a comprehensive approach to ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
There is hope for the future. Scientists have been searching for a vaccine to prevent HIV infection since the virus was first identified in 1983. Each clinical trial brings us one step closer to finding an effective vaccine. More than 25,000 HIV-negative individuals have participated in both government- and privately-sponsored HIV vaccine trials. Today, approximately 30 NIAID-sponsored HIV vaccine clinical trials of various stages are currently underway or planned in the United States and internationally. More vaccines will be studied in the next two years than in the last five years combined; thousands of additional healthy volunteers from all populations will be needed for these trials. NIAID's Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center, the NIAID-supported HIV Vaccine Trials Network and our colleagues in the public and private sector are committed to developing a preventive HIV vaccine.
On May 18, show your support for HIV vaccine research by wearing your AIDS ribbon upside-down to symbolize a "V" for vaccines and the vision of a world without AIDS. Take the opportunity to talk with others about the importance of developing a vaccine and to learn more about HIV vaccine research. Join me and thousands of others in the community as we commemorate HIV Vaccine Awareness Day and say thank you to those who are working to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
For more information about HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, vaccine research or HVAD events at the local level, visit www.niaid.nih.gov/newsroom/mayday/default.htm, www.aidsinfo.nih.gov or call 1-800-HIV-0440 (bilingual English/Spanish).
Dr. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.