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World AIDS Vaccine Day Observed

Twelve years ago on May 18, during a commencement address at Morgan State University, then-US President Bill Clinton called for a renewed commitment to developing an AIDS vaccine. Several organizations and communities marked the 12th anniversary of Clinton’s speechÑcelebrated each year as World AIDS Vaccine DayÑto recognize recent developments in the field and to educate the world about the importance of vaccine research. Around the world, organizations held candlelight vigils, charity walks, and educational forums about AIDS vaccine research.

IAVI marked the day by focusing on recent accomplishments in the quest for a vaccine. In the past year, IAVI opened the world’s first laboratory devoted exclusively to AIDS vaccine researchÑknown as the AIDS Vaccine Design and Development Laboratory—and partnered with The Scripps Research Institute to establish the HIV Neutralizing Antibody Center, dedicated to developing AIDS vaccine candidates that can elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies (seeVAX October 2008, Global News and VAX November 2008, Global News).

In advance of World AIDS Vaccine Day, IAVI, the Global Health Council, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) co-sponsored a Congressional briefing to spotlight advances in AIDS research in Africa.

In South Africa, the Emavundleni Community Outreach team in partnership with the community advisory board and Future Fighters—an adolescent outreach group—sponsored an event at which volunteers distributed condoms along with information about AIDS vaccine research and the pandemic.

Other events included an informational forum in Jamaica focused on both circumcision and HIV vaccine research, while a Baptist church in Georgia sponsored “Hope in Our Souls,” a program to dispel common myths and increase AIDS awareness in the black community. The US Military HIV Research Program in Kenya sponsored research talks throughout the month for students. And the Treatment Action Group in New York City, along with the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition and the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, convened a World AIDS Vaccine day discussion “Community and Scientific Perspectives on the Future of AIDS Research,” which brought together AIDS service providers, scientists, activists, and people involved in clinical trials. —Regina McEnery