Call for new urgency, targets and leadership to accelerate research on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day
New York, NY — On May 18, 1997, US President Bill Clinton called for a concerted effort to develop an AIDS vaccine within a decade. This year we mark the 10th anniversary of that call for action with a global AIDS epidemic that rages on, and without a preventive HIV vaccine.
“Over the past decade, we have seen great progress in AIDS vaccine development, and we now see signs of great hope for development of a vaccine,” said Mitchell Warren, Executive Director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC). “But we have fallen short of the goal set out by President Clinton. Critical elements of the accelerated, comprehensive effort that we need to deliver on the promise of an AIDS vaccine are missing.”
In its special HIV Vaccine Awareness Day report, “The Countdown Continues” (available at http://avac.org/pdf/hvad_the_countdown_continues.pdf), AVAC identifies key issues and obstacles to an accelerated, comprehensive approach to AIDS vaccine development and challenges vaccine researchers, advocates, and funders to:
� Accelerate and better coordinate research and testing of vaccines and other potential new HIV prevention technologies.
� Sustain clinical trial capacity internationally, especially in communities where the HIV epidemic is most severe.
� Develop bold and well-resourced plans for vaccine research and community education in all populations at high risk for HIV infection, not only those who are “easier” to reach.
� Prepare for results of current AIDS vaccine efficacy trials by examining different efficacy scenarios.
� Ensure that research results of all current trials are widely shared in order to help develop better next generation AIDS vaccine candidates.
� Urgently expand access to proven HIV prevention options and treatment for all who need them.
� Bring new, young investigators into AIDS vaccine research.
Ten years ago, President Clinton said, “[W]ith the strides of recent years, it is no longer a question of whether we can develop an AIDS vaccine, it is simply a question of when.” While the dream of having that vaccine in the first decade of the 21st century has not come true, the world has, nonetheless, made tremendous advances in the past decade.
Global resources for AIDS vaccine development, while still short of what is needed, have quadrupled; the number of countries with clinical trials capacity has expanded from North and South America and Europe to include Asia and Africa; and more than 25,000 brave men, women, and children have stepped forward to volunteer for AIDS vaccine trials around the world.
On this anniversary, AVAC reaffirms its commitment to advocacy for a new clinical trials paradigm that recognizes the need for partnerships that include those from scientific and non-scientific domains. These partnerships both improve research and ensure that communities can immediately benefit from the conduct of clinical trials whose ultimate goal , an AIDS vaccine , may still be years away.
“If we are to sustain the necessary momentum to develop and distribute an AIDS vaccine, advocates, activists, scientists, trial volunteers and concerned citizens must work together to create a new paradigm for AIDS vaccine research and development. We must get better at answering the �question of when,’ and be able to explain why it is taking so long to develop a vaccine. And we must also take every step necessary to ensure that delays are avoided, whether in product development, regulatory decisions, or manufacturing,” said Warren.
“If one candidate fails, we must ensure that communities everywhere know this is not the end of the road. We must be sure that there is another candidate moving steadily forward into clinical trials,” he added. “We will ultimately measure the search for an AIDS vaccine in decades, but both President Clinton’s sense of urgency and optimism must remain with us as we continue the countdown to a day when the AIDS epidemic is over.”
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Founded in 1995, the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) is a non-profit, community- and consumer-based organization that uses public education, policy analysis, advocacy and community mobilization to accelerate the ethical development and global delivery of AIDS vaccines and other HIV prevention options. For more information, visit www.avac.org.
About HIV Vaccine Awareness Day:
Each year on May 18th, people around the world commemorate HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, an observance to recognize and thank the thousands of volunteers, community members, health professionals, researchers and scientists who are working together to find a safe and effective HIV vaccine. It is also a day to educate our communities about the importance of HIV vaccine research and development. More information at http://avac.org/hvad.htm.