Editor’s Note: The following statement was released on Friday, May 15 by Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to commemorate today’s observance of HIV Vaccine Awareness Day.
May 15, 2015
With no current cure for HIV/AIDS, an HIV vaccine could be a game changer in our effort to control and end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. HIV Vaccine Awareness Day reminds us that the need for safe, effective, and affordable vaccines that can prevent HIV is urgent. A vaccine could translate into millions of lives saved through averted HIV infections and billions of dollars saved in lower treatment costs. On this HIV Vaccine Awareness Day we thank the advocates, health professionals, and scientists working together with the volunteers around the world who make this research possible and bring us one step closer to truly changing the course of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We also recognize the leadership of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci, M.D. for his dedication to HIV research and driving us toward the definitive HIV vaccine clinical trials.
I spent a significant part of my career working on HIV vaccine research and know firsthand that through continued development and testing, a vaccine for HIV can be developed in our lifetime. I had the honor of working on what many consider to be the most influential HIV vaccine trial in history – “HIV Vaccine Clinical Trial RV 144” or the “Thai Trial.” This clinical trial provided the first early supporting evidence of any vaccine’s potential effectiveness in preventing HIV transmission. The success of RV 144 was a testament to the shared commitment by the United States and researchers around the world who worked together to explore the unknown and to answer critical questions about the virus and its transmission.
Since the 2009 announcement of the results from RV 144, there have been a variety of secondary studies, public-private partnerships, and commitments to from high-HIV burden countries to continue supporting HIV vaccine trials. While this important research continues, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, our implementing agencies, and partners will continue to work with partner countries, civil society, multilateral organizations, and others to focus our resources on the highest HIV burden areas to save lives and achieve epidemic control.