May 14, 2001
"People are dying and to stand back and not do anything just doesn't sit well with me.... I had to go as far as I could go.... I hope more people will participate in HIV vaccine clinical trials and support those who do decide to volunteer... If we talk about it each and every day, maybe it will have a ripple effect."
-- an HIV vaccine study volunteer, Baltimore, MD
May 18 commemorates the Fourth Annual HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, which honors thousands of volunteers worldwide who have literally rolled up their sleeves to receive an experimental vaccine designed to prevent HIV infection in studies, many of them sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Communities around the nation will hold a variety of activities to raise awareness about preventive HIV vaccine trials, why a vaccine is the best hope for stopping the spread of HIV, and how ordinary people can be a part of the international effort to stem the pandemic.
"Volunteers are essential to our research progress toward a safe and effective HIV vaccine," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID director. "Since the first vaccine clinical trials in humans over a decade ago, more than 12,000 volunteers worldwide have stepped forward to participate in vaccine studies. As HIV continues to ravage our world communities, we take time on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day to thank those individuals who will one day be a part of medical history when an HIV vaccine becomes a reality."
Since 1987, NIAID has enrolled more than 3,600 HIV-negative, healthy volunteers in early phase trials intended to determine if candidate vaccines are safe and able to trigger an immune response. So far, volunteers have helped to evaluate 29 different vaccine candidates in NIAID-supported trials. Volunteer participation, combined with new knowledge about the virus and the human immune system, researchers say, has brought new optimism that a safe vaccine to prevent HIV infection can be developed.
An additional 6,000 volunteers have participated in the NIAID-supported studies preparing the groundwork for large-scale vaccine investigations and studies of other prevention strategies, including topical microbicides and behavior changes. These volunteers make it possible for researchers to learn how best to evaluate the safety and potential benefit of experimental vaccines and other prevention strategies. They are also helping scientists to better understand the social and psychological aspects of participation in HIV vaccine trials.
Every day, an estimated 15,000 people worldwide become infected with HIV. More than half of the new infections occur in young people under age 25. Approximately 47 percent of the 36.1 million adults living with HIV/AIDS worldwide are women, while 1.4 million of the world's children younger than 15 years old live with the disease.
"This is a critical time for HIV vaccine research," says Peggy Johnston, Ph.D., NIAID assistant director for HIV/AIDS vaccines. "There is hope in the number and type of candidate vaccines in the research pipeline. Clearly, a safe and effective HIV vaccine is the best way to stop the spread of HIV and eliminate AIDS from the face of the earth."
To accelerate the movement of potential vaccines through the pipeline, NIAID has established an aggressive research program. Part of this program is NIAID's HIV Vaccine Design and Development Teams (HVDDT), a novel public-private partnership, designed to combine the different skills and talents of private industry and academic researchers to move favorable HIV vaccine candidates out of the development pipeline and into human testing. Much of that testing will be carried out in the international HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), which NIAID established last year. Nine of the trial sites are located in the United States with other units in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean, where the epidemic is particularly widespread.
May 18 was established as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day when on that day in 1997, President Bill Clinton challenged the nation to develop an AIDS vaccine within 10 years. That challenge also led to the establishment of the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center (VRC) on the NIH campus. Led by Gary J. Nabel, M.D., Ph.D., the VRC's first HIV vaccine clinical trial is planned for later this year.
Dr. Nabel says, "Our ultimate goal is to develop a vaccine that would prevent infection entirely. In just the past year, several studies have helped us gain more knowledge about HIV and the immune system. Research in monkeys provided the best evidence that a vaccine may protect against AIDS. Plans for the necessary clinical trials in humans are underway."
HIV Vaccine Awareness Day activities will be held throughout the United States and one international research site. This year's events emphasize education and outreach by the research sites, which include media events, receptions to honor volunteers, and proclamations from local legislators.
For information about events in specific areas, contact:
Johns Hopkins University
Theron Scott: (410) 614-6619
University of Maryland, Baltimore
Sandra Wearins: (410) 706-1290
Dwight Payne: (410) 706-1290
University of Alabama, Birmingham
Leslie Cooper: (205) 975-2839
Brigham & Women's Hospital
Fenway Community Health
Jim Brinning: (617) 927-6038
Darren LeBlanc: (617) 927-6026
Mary Braeuner: (615) 343-6957
Susan Montgomery: (615) 322-0873
New York, NY
Project Achieve, Bronx & Union Square and Columbia University sites
Denise Goodman: (718) 588-8900
Sonia Jean or Dr. Mireille Peck: 509-222-00-31
Stephanie Howie: (401) 729-2840
University of Rochester
Patrick Fisher: (716) 275-0459
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Department of Public Health
Billy Pick: (415) 554-9048
Reggie Gage: (415) 437-4669
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/University of Washington
Dennis Torres: (206) 521-5812
St. Louis, MO
St. Louis University
Gwen Pendleton: (314) 268-5448
Johns Hopkins University
Theron Scott: (410) 614-6619
For more information about enrolling in HIV vaccine studies, call the AIDS Clinical Trials Information Service at 1-800-243-7012 or visit the HVTN at http://www.hvtn.org. To learn more about NIAID's HIV/AIDS vaccine research program, visit http://www.niaid.nih.gov/aidsvaccine or http://www.vrc.nih.gov. To learn more about clinical trials, visit http://www.clinicaltrials.gov.