Community groups across the country have declared May 18 as the first HIV/AIDS Vaccine Awareness Day. They will use this opportunity to thank several thousand HIV vaccine study volunteers for their vital contributions to the HIV vaccine research effort supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Events are also planned to educate others about why an HIV vaccine is needed, what researchers are doing to find one and how the community can continue to help.
NIAID joins in honoring the men and women who have volunteered to participate in HIV vaccine studies. Development of an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine is a top priority of the National Institutes of Health and the Clinton Administration. Development of a vaccine requires long-term commitment from volunteers, physicians and researchers, as well as from the federal government," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID.
Federal support for AIDS vaccine research in fiscal year (FY) 1998 totals $153 million, a 17.5 percent increase over FY 1997 and a 53 percent increase since FY 1995. President Clinton's FY 1999 budget includes $180 million for AIDS vaccine research, an increase of 17.5 percent over FY 1998 and an 80 percent increase since FY 1995.
State, city and local officials from the places where clinical research on AIDS vaccines is taking place have joined community groups in recognizing the day. These officials include the Governors of Massachusetts and Washington, and the Mayors of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Nashville and Baltimore.
NIAID-supported scientists who have been working for more than 10 years to develop a safe and effective HIV vaccine. As part of this process, many promising vaccine candidates have been tested in the United States by NIAID's AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Group (AVEG) and the HIV Network for Prevention Trials (HIVNET). All of these studies depend on the willingness of ordinary people to volunteer to participate in prevention studies. Since 1988, more than 2,750 healthy volunteers have participated in preventive vaccine trials. Another 6,000 volunteers have participated in vaccine preparedness studies and studies of other prevention strategies, including topical microbicides and behavioral interventions. These volunteers have made it possible for researchers to learn about the safety and potential benefit of experimental vaccines. They are also helping scientists to better understand the concerns of prospective HIV vaccine trial volunteers.
To express thanks to the AVEG and HIVNET volunteers who have made personal contributions in the fight against HIV and AIDS, several cities and states have issued proclamations. They will formally recognize the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS in their communities, the altruism of the vaccine trial volunteers and the cooperation that has been established between scientists and those at risk of HIV infection. These proclamations will also acknowledge that continued HIV vaccine research is an essential part of the country's response to AIDS and that many more additional volunteers will be needed for future vaccine trials.
In Seattle, for example, the City Council, the office of the Mayor and the office of the Governor of the State of Washington will issue a proclamation commending HIVNET and AVEG volunteers for their contributions in protecting future generations from HIV/AIDS. The many volunteers who have participated in vaccine trials at the University of Washington in Seattle exemplify the determination and commitment needed to find a vaccine for HIV. A ceremony will be held to acknowledge their contributions and to kick off a new campaign to educate the community about HIV vaccine research. In Annapolis, state officials and members of the Johns Hopkins AVEG staff will oversee a tree-planting ceremony. Just as the tree will one day provide shelter, the organizers say, it symbolizes the process of vaccine research that will one day result in an effective vaccine.
Many AVEG and HIVNET sites will also sponsor a variety of educational forums and outreach activities on May 18 to increase awareness about local and national issues surrounding HIV vaccine research. The development of an effective vaccine holds the greatest promise for reducing the spread of HIV. Although much has been learned over the last 10 years, many challenges lie ahead. Organizers of HIV/AIDS Vaccine Awareness Day believe it is important that people understand why a vaccine is needed to stop the spread of HIV, what a vaccine would mean to their local communities, the complex nature of HIV vaccine development and how ordinary people can be part of the effort to find a vaccine.
The San Fran cisco HIVNET site will be distributing educational materials throughout the city, including brochure s in Spanish and in English on the potential global benefit of a successful HIV vaccine. Two hospitals in Rhode Island, which are part of the Boston HIVNET site at the Fenway Community Health Center, will hold health fairs and use radio spots to promote and educate their communities about HIV vaccine and prevention research. The New York University Medical Center will sponsor an event to both honor vaccine trial volunteers and increase community awareness of HIV prevention research. The event will feature a design contest and the winning image depicting a "harbinger of hope" will be displayed on the exterior of the site's Mobile Research Unit. Many of the sites, including those in Seattle, San Francisco, Rhode Island and New York will also hold media briefings on vaccine science and the perspective of vaccine trial volunteers.
NIAID established the AVEG in 1988 to conduct early clinical trials to determine the safety and immunogenicity of candidate HIV/AIDS vaccines. The HIVNET was established in 1993 to conduct trials of promising HIV prevention strategies (including vaccine and non-vaccine strategies) in both the United States and abroad. To date, the AVEG has conducted 47 studies using 22 different vaccine concepts. Numerous studies of novel vaccine concepts are currently under way, and a Phase II vaccine trial of one promising vaccine concept, a combination of two products, is currently being conducted in both the AVEG and the HIVNET.
The 11 domestic HIVNET sites and the six AVEG sites are listed below. Sites with an asterisk will be sponsoring an event on or around May 18, and contact information is provided below. Abt Associates is the domestic contractor managing the HIVNET sites. AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Group (AVEG ^ ):
HIV Network for Prevention Trials (HIVNET^^ ):
^AVEG: AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Group, a network of clinical sites funded by NIAID to perform Phase 1 and 2 AIDS vaccine trials.
^^HIVNET: HIV Network for Prevention Trials, a network of clinical sites funded by NIAID to conduct trials of promising HIV prevention strategies, including vaccines, in both the United States and abroad. For additional information, contact the main sites and subsites listed below.