Today we celebrate HIV Vaccine Awareness Day because it’s more important than ever to acknowledge the work of the scientists, health care professionals, community members and others working to develop a vaccine for HIV and AIDS.
Let’s be clear. We know there are many ways to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, around the world. From antiretroviral treatment to voluntary male circumcision. From condom use to HIV education and prevention of mother to child transmission. To dramatically decrease the number of people dying from HIV and AIDS, we need to do more to prevent infection and transmission, and treat the disease more effectively.
In fact, according to Mitchell Warren of AVAC ( a nonprofit organization engaged in global advocacy for HIV prevention), in a piece on the Huffington Post this week, “Just last week, an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended approval of the antiretroviral TDF/FTC (brand-name Truvada) for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in HIV-negative adults. A final decision from the FDA is expected in June -- and approval would provide another powerful option for HIV prevention.”
Ideally, an AIDS vaccine will be a prevention tool that helps bring the epidemic closer to a more definitive end.”
Mitchell Warren, AVAC
This is good news. But there's more that needs to be done. Warren states in no uncertain terms: we need an AIDS vaccine to end this epidemic.
“If the potential of combination prevention is realized over the next ten years, there will be vast reductions in the numbers of new HIV infections and AIDS deaths. If combination prevention targets do not get met in the next ten years, this will be a global tragedy.
In either scenario, an AIDS vaccine is an essential tool.
This is because in both of these scenarios there will still be new infections. Ideally, an AIDS vaccine will be a prevention tool that helps bring the epidemic closer to a more definitive end.”
Mitchell couldn’t be more clear. And he’s right. But, as Ed Yong, writing on Discover.com chronicles, the creation of a vaccine is not an easy road to travel,
“It took 47 years to create a vaccine for polio after the microbe behind it was identified. The measles vaccine took 42 years. The hepatitis B vaccine was a positive sprint at 16 years.”
The potential for a vaccine was identified in the early 1980s and researchers feel they are getting much closer. In fact, recent successes raise the hopes of many that a vaccine will be developed.
But it will take more than just hope. It will take HIV advocates speaking up that we should, in fact, be developing a vaccine. It will take continued funding. And it will take the ongoing efforts of those scientists, health care providers, community members and volunteers who give of their time and energy every day to find a way to end the epidemic of our lifetime.