American Generosity Contributes to Global Impact: HIV Vaccine Awareness Day 2018

Lab technicians at work at the USAID-supported Infectious Diseases (ID) Laboratory located at the Voluntary Health Services (VHS) Hospital Campus in Chennai, India. These technicians are testing samples from a cohort to identify volunteers with early HIV infection. These samples reveal important clues about the body’s immune response to HIV and are key to developing an HIV vaccine. Photo credit: Anirban Dutta/IAVI
Lab technicians at work at the USAID-supported Infectious Diseases Laboratory located at the Voluntary Health Services Hospital Campus in Chennai, India. These technicians are testing samples from a cohort to identify volunteers with early HIV infection. These samples reveal important clues about the body’s immune response to HIV and are key to developing an HIV vaccine.
Photo credit: Anirban Dutta/IAVI
headshot of Margaret McCluskey

Margaret McCluskey, RN, MPH, is the senior technical advisor for HIV Vaccine Research in the USAID Office of HIV/AIDS (OHA) and has been working on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in various capacities since 1981.

headshot of Samantha Luffy

Samantha Luffy, MPH, is the program analyst for HIV Vaccines and antiretroviral therapy optimization in OHA.

 

Since the first HIV Vaccine Awareness Day on May 18, 1998, the world has recognized that a vaccine against HIV is the most likely tool to decisively stop the HIV pandemic. The search for an HIV vaccine is riddled with biological complexities that have challenged HIV vaccine researchers since the epidemic began. On the upside of this arduous search is the fact that the cutting-edge science driving HIV vaccine discovery has contributed more to a better understanding of the human immune system than any other medical endeavor to date.

Typically on HIV Vaccine Awareness Days, we take time to recognize the tens of thousands of volunteers who believe that a vaccine is necessary to end the epidemic. Here again, we honor and thank the noble volunteers who have participated in more than 50 different HIV vaccine clinical trials all over the world from Southeast Asia to Africa to the Americas. This year, we would also like to thank the many policymakers who, over many years, have taken the time to learn about HIV vaccine research and development (R&D) and assure their support of this important work.

The U.S. Government has historically been the leading contributor to this long-term endeavor, with a contribution of US$ 881 million in 2016 according to the most recent Resource Tracking Report. Thankfully, and despite exceedingly polarizing politics, the notion that a safe and globally effective HIV vaccine is required to end the epidemic is a point upon which many U.S. lawmakers agree. Just last month, as has been the case for more than a decade, our office received copies of two letters with more than 90 signatures from bipartisan members of Congress (33 from the U.S. Senate and 59 from the U.S. House of Representatives) supporting the commitment of USAID to continue HIV vaccine R&D. Given the scientific challenges behind the discovery of this much-needed vaccine, this consistent support from the U.S. Congress provides both hope and a way forward!

As Americans, we can be very proud of our contributions to the search for the ultimate tool to end HIV/AIDS both domestically and abroad, remembering that viruses know no boundaries. Through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) OHA deliberately focuses its HIV vaccine research investments on establishing a cadre of expert African scientists who can competently conduct the entire spectrum of HIV vaccine R&D activities, from discovery to clinical testing, at Clinical Research Centers in Africa [PDF, 569KB]. OHA’s investments are also building robust advocacy, clear communications, stable regulatory capacity and meaningful policies to support biomedical HIV prevention R&D globally with a particular focus on low- and lower middle-income countries (learn more here).

Until an HIV vaccine becomes available, the generosity of the American people, through PEPFAR, provides antiretroviral therapy to millions of people infected with HIV, while also strengthening countries’ abilities to sustainably support their own citizens’ HIV care and treatment in the future. These efforts are accomplished in conjunction with critical funding from the global community through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other key donors. PEPFAR and other donors are also dedicated to the development of microbicides for women and other HIV prevention options, such as oral pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP – all to prevent new HIV infections. In tandem with PEPFAR’s robust treatment program, with the promise of these new prevention tools, and in particular, an HIV vaccine, we have a real chance of ending the HIV epidemic globally. That will surely be the day to celebrate!

Comments

I really await that day... In Faith and thanksgiving to God Almighty for making it a dream come through for the research team and world at large. Thanks

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Last updated: May 15, 2018

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