On December 1, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) joins with people around the globe in commemorating World AIDS Day. More than 25 million men, women and children have already died, and an estimated 33.2 million people around the world are currently living with HIV infection. Last year alone, an estimated 2.5 million new HIV infections occurred worldwide, and 2.1 million people died from AIDS.
Dr. Jack Whitescarver, NIH Associate Director for AIDS Research and director of the Office of AIDS Research (OAR), states, "On World AIDS Day, we confirm our commitment to the global fight against HIV/AIDS. This pandemic continues to wreak devastating consequences in every sector of society, affecting the stability of families and entire communities with profound economic and national security consequences."
This year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has adopted the World AIDS Day theme of "The Power of Partnerships" to remind us all "scientists, clinicians, policymakers, activists, communities, families, clinical study volunteers and individuals living with HIV" that only by working together can we bring an end to HIV/AIDS. NIH has established research partnerships with research institutions, non-governmental organizations, governments, industry, foundations, and representatives of affected communities in the United States and around the world.
"On World AIDS Day, we applaud the heroic efforts of researchers and clinical trial participants who have devoted their time and energy to helping us find effective ways to prevent HIV/AIDS and new treatments to help those already infected," says National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D. "Although much work remains to be done in the fight against HIV, we remain committed to developing new and improved strategies to control and defeat this virus."
Since the first cases of what is now known as AIDS were first reported in the United States more than a quarter century ago, the NIH has established the largest and most significant AIDS research program in the world, a comprehensive trans-NIH research effort. NIH supports and conducts basic, clinical and behavioral research designed to better understand the biology of HIV and how it affects the body, develop effective new therapies to treat and control the virus, and design interventions aimed at preventing new infections.
"The world is at a pivotal stage in combating HIV/AIDS," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a component of the NIH. "Although there have been substantial scientific advances in terms of effective HIV treatments and methods to prevent HIV transmission, the virus continues to spread, and many people still die needlessly."
NIH-funded research established the foundation for the discovery and development of antiretroviral therapies and regimens that have resulted in improved quality of life and life expectancy for those with access to these drugs. In addition, NIH research has developed treatments for HIV-associated co-infections and co-morbidities, including malignancies, neurological complications, tuberculosis, and other clinical manifestations. NIH research has also made a number of advances in HIV prevention, including the demonstration that medically supervised circumcision of adult men can reduce risk of heterosexual HIV acquisition. Although HIV vaccine research experienced a recent setback with the failure of the Merck vaccine candidate in the STEP clinical study, NIH remains committed to developing a safe and effective HIV vaccine.
"Vaccines have always been the cornerstone in fighting infectious diseases," says Dr. Fauci. "We will continue a vigorous vaccine research agenda despite the fact that a promising vaccine candidate recently did not work. Other vaccine strategies are in development, and we are learning from the STEP study and using those findings to move HIV vaccine research forward."
In addition to a continued NIH commitment to finding an HIV vaccine, researchers are also examining new, evidence-based approaches to HIV prevention, including topical anti-HIV gels or creams that could be applied prior to sexual intercourse, as well as preventive regimens of antiretroviral medicines. The intent is to create a toolbox of effective HIV preventive measures, including a vaccine, which can stop the global scourge of HIV/AIDS.
NIH World AIDS Day Awards
To recognize the important contributions that NIH scientists have made to AIDS research, the OAR and NIAID established the NIH World AIDS Day Awards. The recipients of the second annual NIH World AIDS Day Awards were announced today. These scientists and managers have made exceptional contributions to the AIDS research efforts at NIH - either for original scientific research or for programmatic support for research. The individuals selected for the 2007 honor are:
Daniel Douek, M.D., Ph.D. and Richard Koup, M.D., of the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases--a joint award for their original scientific research that significantly contributed to determining the mechanisms that control HIV pathogenesis and immune reconstitution. Their landmark findings have led the field in understanding the role of HIV-specific T cells in the control of HIV infection and helped to establish the immunological basis for the future development of an AIDS vaccine.
Kenneth Bridbord, M.D., M.P.H., of the Fogarty International Center ¿ for his efforts to develop innovative programs to build a cadre of international research scientists and clinicians trained to join the global fight against the AIDS pandemic. These programs have played a significant role in building research infrastructure and capacity for the conduct of basic and clinical biomedical and behavioral AIDS research in more than 100 nations around the world.
"These awards demonstrate the NIH commitment to supporting a multifaceted research effort in HIV/AIDS, with the goal of fostering the best minds to work together as partners to develop new medical tools to stop the devastating effects of the disease around the world," says Dr. Zerhouni.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health. NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on basic immunology, transplantation and immune-related disorders, including autoimmune diseases, asthma and allergies. NIAID AIDS Information can be found at
The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices, which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at
Federal HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention guidelines and clinical trials information can be found at
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)--The Nation's Medical Research Agency--includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.