"The epidemic is not over. Many of my friends and their families have suffered from the effects of HIV/AIDS. I want to do more. This way my support continues on."
-- an HIV vaccine study volunteer, St. Louis, MO
Communities around the nation will sponsor a variety of activities on May 18 for the Third Annual HIV Vaccine Awareness Day honoring thousands of volunteers in 53 cities who have literally rolled up their sleeves to receive one of 28 different experimental vaccines to prevent HIV.
The activities are also designed to help people understand why a vaccine would be the best way to stop the spread of HIV, what it will take to develop an effective vaccine, and how ordinary people can be part of the international effort to find a way to prevent HIV from ravaging their communities.
"Development of a preventive HIV vaccine remains the top HIV research priority of the National Institutes of Health," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). "We are all indebted to the individuals on the front lines who volunteer in the effort to find a safe and effective HIV vaccine to fight AIDS. We are encouraged by the increasing support of various communities throughout the nation to promote HIV Vaccine Awareness Day."
Every day, an estimated 16,000 people worldwide are infected with HIV. Approximately 1,600 of these infections are in children younger than 15 years old.
HIV Vaccine Awareness Day activities will be held throughout the United States. This year's events emphasize educational and outreach efforts at various vaccine research sites supported by NIAID.
Johns Hopkins University Center for Immunization Research and Morgan State University Public Health Program will hold a free all-day community conference and town meeting at the Baltimore Urban League. Debra Frasier Howze, president of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, will give the keynote address. Other speakers include Nancy Kass, ScD, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, who will talk about the ethical considerations in HIV vaccine research. The event will close with a town meeting hosted by Rena Boss Victoria, DPH, from Morgan State University, and moderated by A. Cornelius Baker, executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, DC.
The New York Blood Center in New York City will engage the community in discussions about AIDS vaccines as well as about other methods of HIV/AIDS prevention. Verna Eggleston, executive director of the Hetrick Martin Institute, will be the featured speaker. The event will also include entertainment, food and educational activities at North General Hospital in Harlem at 6:00 p.m.
Howard Brown Health Center, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Chicago Center for Clinical Research will hold a community forum to increase public support, community awareness, and retention in the VaxGen trial and vaccine trials in general. The importance of future HIV vaccine trials will be discussed by John Curd, M.D., of VaxGen and Cathy Creticos, M.D., principal investigator of the Howard Brown Health Center. The event will be held at the university's student union at 7:30 p.m.
Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, in collaboration with Miriam Hospital, will host a forum at the Memorial's Physicians' Auditorium at 8:00 a.m. A personal view of vaccine research as told by a study participant will be a highlight of the program. Other speakers include Kenneth H. Mayer, M.D., principal investigator at Memorial Hospital, and Michelle Lally, M.D., principal investigator of the Miriam Hospital site and assistant professor at Brown University.
In other areas of the country, state, city and local government officials will join community groups in recognizing HIV Vaccine Awareness Day with proclamations and other tributes to honor volunteers. In addition to proclamations, Vanderbilt University will have educational material available as well as a display on HIV vaccines on campus.
University of Washington, Seattle, will send letters of appreciation to vaccine study participants. Media will have access to participants-with their approval-and tours of the university vaccine research laboratories. University of Rochester will run an advertisement in a local newspaper thanking volunteers for their participation.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham is launching SAVE, Supporting Alabama's Vaccine Efforts, which enlists local businesses to promote awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS by drawing attention to vaccine research and the need for volunteers to participate in HIV vaccine studies.
Since 1987, NIAID has enrolled over 3,400 volunteers in 54 Phase I and II preventive HIV vaccine trials (comprising 35 linked studies) of 28 different vaccines. 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 behavioral interventions. In addition, more than 5,400 men and women have been enrolled in AIDSVAX, the first study to test the effectiveness of a vaccine to prevent HIV. This study is being sponsored by VaxGen, a private company. NIAID is collaborating on ancillary studies of the samples that will be collected.
Together, all of 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.<
NIH will spend an estimated $239 million for AIDS vaccine research in Fiscal Year 2000, which represents a 115 percent increase over FY 1996.
May 18 marks the anniversary of President Bill Clinton's 1997 commencement address at Morgan State University, in which he set a goal to develop an AIDS vaccine within 10 years. On that date, he also announced the establishment of the NIH Vaccine Research Center, a state-of-the-art biomedical research laboratory. The 50,000 square-foot, $30 million center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2000. When the center is fully operational, Gary Nabel, M.D., Ph.D., director, will oversee more than 100 scientists and support staff.
For information about events in specific areas, contact:
For more information about enrolling in vaccine studies, call the AIDS Clinical Trials Information Service at 1-800-243-7012.
To learn more about NIAID's HIV/AIDS vaccine research program, visit http://www.niaid.nih.gov/aidsvaccine . To learn more about clinical trials, Visit http://www.clinicaltrials.gov.
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-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.