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HIV Vaccine Awareness Day 2009

May 14, 2009

By: COL Nelson Michael

As we mark HIV Vaccine Awareness Day on May 18, I’d like to reflect on the advances we have made in the HIV field and acknowledge the people who make this progress possible.

Over the last 20 years, the medical community has made tremendous strides in understanding this extremely complex and evasive virus. This knowledge has advanced several HIV vaccine candidates, and improved prevention, care and treatment services for people living with HIV.

Promoting the use of condoms, adult male circumcision and perinatal drug administration, combined with the growing availability of antiretroviral therapy worldwide, has had a tremendous impact on communities and individuals living with HIV.

However, the scourge of HIV continues. More than 33 million people are living with HIV, and 7,500 people contract the disease every day. We cannot treat our way out of this epidemic. Thus the pursuit of an effective vaccine is paramount.

Military medical researchers have a long and successful history of battling infectious disease threats. That tradition continues today. MHRP has built a robust international research infrastructure that is developing and testing HIV vaccine candidates to reduce the global impact of this disease.

We eagerly anticipate results from our clinical trial of an HIV vaccine candidate involving more than 16,000 volunteers in Thailand. This monumental study—the world’s largest HIV vaccine trial—will contribute essential knowledge about HIV vaccines, and represents an important scientific milestone for global HIV/AIDS research. Our researchers are also pursuing a prime-boost combination of DNA/modified vaccinia ankara (MVA) vaccine, and initial studies indicate that it is highly immunogenic and well tolerated. Newer studies are planned with MVA and Adenoviral vector combinations delivering promising new HIV products.

I applaud our staff, partners and volunteers at our network sites—in the U.S., Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Thailand—who continue to support and participate in this extremely vital area of public health research. Together, we will build on our strengths and history and press onwards toward our goal: to end this pandemic.