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World AIDS Day 2018

November 28, 2018
A statement from MHRP Director Dr. Robert Gramzinski

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) is a critical partner in the whole of government approach to combat HIV—the most devastating pandemic of our time.

As the global AIDS epidemic has unfolded over the last 36 years, it’s become clear that the impact of HIV is closely tied to global security, regional stability, humanitarian concerns, counterterrorism, and peacekeeping efforts.

The U.S. military has a direct interest in HIV primarily because of Force Health Protection. Not only does it have an impact on deployment, but it also poses a risk to theater blood supply and impacts long-term costs of care.

In 1986 Congress authorized the U.S Military HIV Research Program (MHRP), based at WRAIR, to focus Department of Defense research efforts against HIV, and in the past 32 years, MHRP has made great strides in threat assessment and epidemiology, HIV diagnostics, vaccine development and testing, and therapeutics research. In fact, WRAIR led the first and only HIV vaccine trial to date — the RV144 Thai Trial — that showed that a vaccine can protect against HIV.

An effective HIV vaccine is critical to long-term control of HIV in the military and throughout the world. A cure would provide hope, and minimize associated healthcare costs for 37 million people currently living with the disease. Through its research and participation in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), WRAIR also works with foreign militaries to help improve public health in Africa, stemming the spread of HIV and impacting lives. Healthy people are more productive, which positively impacts economies and sustains stability in these countries.

This World AIDS Day, the U.S. Government is celebrating and recommitting to its mission of saving lives through leadership and partnership – two values that the U.S. military holds in highest esteem and that WRAIR counts as critical in its mission to advance Soldier health and world health.

And so today we thank our partners: foreign governments and militaries, research collaborators, global health workers, and especially the volunteers who have joined in the effort to advance an effective vaccine and work towards a cure for HIV.

As for leadership, Napoleon Bonaparte said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” The advances of the last few decades have planted seeds of hope that HIV, this elusive and deadly enemy, can be defeated in our lifetimes. That hope will continue to drive our vision, our mission and our daily work until it becomes reality.

Robert A. Gramzinski, PhD
Director, U.S. Military HIV Research Program
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research