"...I have a conviction... to make a difference in the course of this epidemic so humanity does not lose anyone else to this plague."-- An AIDS vaccine study volunteer, New York, N.Y.
On May 18, communities around the country will sponsor a variety of activities for the Second Annual AIDS Vaccine Day honoring the thousands of volunteers who have literally rolled up their sleeves to receive one of 27 different experimental AIDS vaccines. The activities are also designed to help people understand why a vaccine is the best way to stop the spread of HIV, what it will take to develop an effective vaccine and how ordinary people in their communities can be part of the international effort to find one.
"All of us are indebted to the individuals on the front lines of the effort to find a safe and effective AIDS vaccine," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). "AIDS Vaccine Day honors those volunteers who play a vital role as research partners. The rapid development of an AIDS vaccine remains a top priority of the National Institutes of Health."
NIH will spend an estimated $194 million for AIDS vaccine research in Fiscal Year 1999, which represents a 100 percent increase over four years ago.
May 18 marks the anniversary of President Bill Clinton's 1997 commencement speech at Morgan State University in which he announced the establishment of the Vaccine Research Center at NIH. Currently under construction, the center is scheduled to open in the summer of 2000. The 50,000-square-foot, $30 million building is a state-of-the-art research facility designed to bring AIDS vaccines from concepts to clinical trials. Gary Nabel, M.D., Ph.D., director of the center, has already begun recruiting scientists and charting the research course of the program.
Activities will be held throughout the United States. To commemorate the President's speech, Morgan State University in Baltimore will host a one-day conference co-sponsored by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Immunization Research and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. The conference will feature nationally known AIDS researchers, HIV prevention experts and community leaders discussing the future of the AIDS vaccine research and the impact a vaccine would have on traditional ideas of preventing HIV/AIDS. An open forum will include panelists who have volunteered in Phase I, II and III vaccine studies. Other speakers include: Earl Richardson, Ed.D., president of Morgan State University; Rep. Elijah Cummings (D.-Md.); Don Francis, M.D., president of VaxGen, Inc.; Helene Gayle, M.D., M.P.H., director of the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Margaret Johnston, Ph.D., assistant director for HIV/AIDS Vaccines at NIAID.
In other areas of the country, state, city and local government officials will join community groups in recognizing AIDS Vaccine Day. These officials include the governor of Rhode Island and city mayors of Providence and Pawtucket, and the mayors of Rochester, N.Y., and Seattle, Wash. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Daniel Montoya, executive director of the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, will attend a volunteer recognition reception at a local restaurant for those in the vaccine study at the District of Columbia General Hospital. Earlier that day, a volunteer will be vaccinated as part of a brief ceremony at the hospital.
In an educational outreach effort, several sites, including New York University Medical Center and the Fenway Community Health Center in Boston, will distribute "palm cards" with information about AIDS Vaccine Day, HIV preventive vaccines and volunteering for clinical trials. The New York University Medical Center and the New York Blood Center will honor their volunteers by participating in the AIDSWALK around Central Park. The Fenway Community Health Center is also scheduled to present a media forum on the state of HIV preventive vaccines. The University of Rochester Medical Center will honor volunteers at the AIDS Remembrance Garden in Highland Park. Other AIDS Vaccine Day activities range from a volunteer recognition luncheon at the Johns Hopkins University site to a brunch for volunteers at the Howard Brown Health Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Since 1987, more than 3,000 healthy volunteers have enrolled in 52 (50 Phase I and 2 Phase II) NIAID-supported studies involving 27 vaccines. The trials have been conducted at university-based sites in the AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Group (AVEG), a network of clinical trials funded by NIAID to perform Phase I and II AIDS vaccine trials, and the HIV Network for Prevention Trials (HIVNET), a network of NIAID-funded clinical trials of promising HIV prevention strategies, including vaccines, in both the United States and abroad.
An additional 6,000 volunteers have participated in NIAID-supported studies preparing the groundwork for large-scale vaccine investigations and studies of other prevention strategies, including topical microbicides and behavioral interventions. These volunteers have made 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 concerns of prospective HIV vaccine trial volunteers.
One Phase III study that is testing AIDSVAX, a bivalent gp120 vaccine developed by VAXGEN, opened in the summer of 1998 and is expected to be completed in 2001.
For information about events in specific areas, contact:
For information about enrolling in vaccine studies, call the AIDS Clinical Trials Information Service at 1-800-TRIALS-A or for TDD/Deaf Access 1-800-243-7012. Learn more about NIAID's HIV/AIDS vaccine research program on the Internet: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/aidsvaccine/.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID conducts and supports research to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as HIV disease and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, malaria, asthma and allergies. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Press releases, fact sheets and other NIAID materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.