10th annual World AIDS Vaccine Day commemorated

The 10th annual World AIDS Vaccine Day was commemorated on May 18, with many organizations conducting AIDS vaccine education campaigns or events to stimulate awareness and support for the development of a preventive AIDS vaccine. The commemoration of World AIDS Vaccine Day originated in 1997 when then US President Bill Clinton delivered a speech at Morgan State University calling on the world's researchers to develop an AIDS vaccine within the next decade.

Although this goal was not met there has been substantial progress in the field. In the past decade the funding for AIDS vaccine research and development has quadrupled and scientists have made significant advancements in the understanding of HIV and its interaction with the immune system (see March 2007 Primer on Understanding Why an Effective AIDS Vaccine is Feasible). Researchers have also advanced promising AIDS vaccine candidates into preliminary efficacy trials, and there are now more than 30 ongoing preventive AIDS vaccine Phase I and II clinical trials.

In an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle, Peggy Johnston, director of the Vaccine Research Program at NIAID, and Tony Fauci, director of NIAID, said, "We now know more about HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and have more promising vaccines in development than at any other time in the history of the HIV/AIDS pandemic." Still there are many remaining scientific obstacles that must be overcome before Clinton's challenge will be realized (see April 2007Primer on Understanding the Challenges of AIDS Vaccine Development).

The urgent need for a vaccine that could help reverse the relentless spread of the AIDS pandemic remains unchanged since Clinton's speech. Currently 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS around the world and each day an additional 12,000 new HIV infections occur. A preventive AIDS vaccine, even one that is partially-effective (seePrimer, this issue), would help to dramatically lower the number of new infections.

All articles written by Kristen Jill Kresge