What the NIH wants you to know on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day

HIV Vaccine Awareness Day is observed annually on May 18. The observance creates opportunity to recognize the many people working together to find a safe and effective HIV vaccine and to educate the public about the importance of such a preventative measure.

On Wednesday, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health, made a statement regarding HIV Vaccine Awareness Day.

Here four key takeaways from the Dr. Fauci's statement.

1. Progress: Notable progress has been made in areas regarding HIV research and care outside of the creation of a vaccine. NIAID-backed studies have shown that early treatment and detection can significantly diminish the likelihood of transmission and improve quality of life. The most prominent advancements have come with the development of antiretroviral drugs for treatment and prevention. Some clinical trials have suggested habitually taking a single antiretroviral pill can reduce an individual's risk of contracting HIV infection by more than 90 percent.

2. Game-changer: Antiretroviral treatments are substantially underutilized and resources to maintain such treatments are scarce in nations where the majority of new HIV infections occur. In the statement, Dr. Fauci wrote, "While we are making encouraging progress — new HIV infections have fallen by 35 percent globally since 2000 — the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine would be the ultimate game-changer."

3. The vaccine: In the statement, Dr. Fauci announced that the NIAID is moving forward with HVTN 702 — a new phase in a HIV vaccine efficacy clinical trial in South Africa. The decision to move forward with the trial was informed by data from an earlier trial phase that has shown the vaccine to be safe and effective in producing a robust immune response. Vaccine research is also continuing at the laboratory level with promising work being done with potent antibodies that block a high percentage of global HIV strains from infecting human cells.

4. In conclusion: "HIV vaccine development has been challenging; however, the goal of developing a safe and effective vaccine that helps bring about a durable end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is an overarching research priority. On this HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, we recognize and thank the thousands of HIV vaccine clinical trial volunteers, researchers, health professionals, advocates, and others who work in pursuit of that goal," wrote Dr. Fauci.

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