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World AIDS Day 2015: The Time to Act is Now

November 30, 2015
A statement from COL Nelson Michael

The U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP)/Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) seeks to protect U.S. troops and reduce the global impact of HIV through a combined focus on developing a globally effective HIV vaccine and finding a cure.

The landmark RV144 Thai vaccine study, the only vaccine clinical trial to show a modest ability to protect against HIV infection, continues to inform the vaccine field and drive research. Our program continues to pursue this and other promising vaccine strategies to ensure long-term control of this epidemic.

As MHRP advances the search for an HIV vaccine, it has also embarked on an exciting new avenue of research into a cure for HIV. Over the next several months, MHRP will initiative several HIV cure studies within its two acute infections cohorts in Thailand and Africa. These unique cohorts of HIV positive volunteers provide insight into crucial stages of early HIV infection.

The acute, or first stage, of HIV infection occurs before common tests to diagnosis HIV are able to identify infection. It is during this stage that the virus begins to replicate and invade areas of the body (‘reservoirs’) that allow it to both degrade and to evade the immune system.

We believe that these volunteers who had their infection detected within days or weeks of exposure to the virus provide our best chance to evaluate strategies aimed at inducing a functional cure. These small, but scientifically intense, cure studies will try to control the virus without the need for continuous anti-retroviral treatment. Our studies include strategies to combine therapeutic HIV vaccines, broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies, and reservoir activators along with antiretroviral drugs to gauge the possibility of establishing a long-term cure.

On World AIDS Day, let us recommit ourselves to solving this global health threat, stopping new infections and discovering new ways to support those living with HIV. While we have made progress in some areas of the global HIV pandemic, the fight is far from won. Join us to finally end the scourge of HIV/AIDS and see the beginning of an AIDS-free generation. The time to act is now.