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November 04, 1999

Delegation Pledges to Push for Support of Vaccine Development

NEW YORK, 4 November 1999—High-ranking officials of the Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders on HIV/AIDS in Africa today joined the growing list of organizations from around the world who are calling on the international community to agree on a plan of action to develop a safe, effective, accessible, preventive AIDS vaccine for use throughout the world.

The representatives from the Alliance attended a briefing session on AIDS vaccines arranged by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at the headquarters of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) in New York City.

The representatives, who are in the United States to participate in the U.S. conference on HIV/AIDS November 4-8 in Denver, Colorado, were: Emmanuel Ibo Baingue, Advisor to the Mayor of Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Charles N. Keenja, Chairman of the Dar es Salaam City Commission (Tanzania), Peter Anthony Mavunde, Mayor of Dodoma Municipal Council (Tanzania), Fikile Mthembu, Mayor of the City of Manzini (Swaziland), Fisho Mwale, former Mayor of Lusaka (Zambia), and Major Rubaramira Ruranga, Founder of the National Guidance and Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

Mrs. Fikile Mthembu, the Mayor of Manzini, Swaziland, said, "Time is of the essence. Twenty-five percent of the people in my country are already infected. We need a solution as soon as possible."

"Without a vaccine, HIV will continue to ravage Africa," said Major Ruranga, a former member of the Ugandan Army who has been living with HIV for 14 years. " My biggest question is how soon?" he asked.

Dr. Seth Berkley, President of IAVI told the group that "while vaccine development will take many years, an IAVI-sponsored partnership between scientists in Kenya and the U.K. has produced a vaccine candidate that will go into trials next year in those countries." This will be the first testing of a vaccine targeted specifically at strains of the virus found in Africa.

Responding to the Mayor's concerns that African nations would not have immediate access to AIDS vaccines, Dr. Berkley said, "We are taking measures to ensure that IAVI-sponsored vaccines will available simultaneously in the North and the South. Developing countries should not be forced to wait 10 or 15 years for an AIDS vaccine to trickle down to them."

After signing the Call for Action, the delegation pledged to use their positions on the front lines of the epidemic to push for more support from national leaders. Mr. Fisho Mwale, former Mayor of Zambia, Lusaka said that the group realizes that a strong push is needed to bring about the political will necessary to support vaccine development. Dr. Berkley noted that the delegation has an important role to play in appealing to the leaders of their countries for political support, and also in raising awareness in their individual communities of the need for an AIDS vaccine.

The International Call for Action on HIV Vaccine Development was originally presented to the Denver Summit of Eight in June 1997. As of September 30, 1999, representatives from 235 organizations have signed the Call for Action.

The Alliance of Mayors was launched in 1997 in the Cote D’Ivoire at a symposium sponsored by UNDP in collaboration with UNAIDS. In partnership with these UN agencies, the Alliance has developed the African Mayors’ Initiative for Community Action on AIDS at the Local Level (AMICAALL), a 10-million, eight-country pilot project with a comprehensive strategy to address HIV/AIDS where the impact is greatest and success is most likely. AMICAALL aims to strengthen the capacity of local governments and political leaders to identify the socio-economic causes and consequences of HIV/AIDS, and to support multi-sectoral community-based responses to the pandemic.

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative is an international, non-profit, scientific organization founded in 1996 whose mission is to ensure the development of safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccines for use throughout the world. IAVI’s work focuses on three areas: accelerating scientific progress, mobilizing political support through advocacy and education, and encouraging industrial involvement in AIDS vaccine development. IAVI also works with large developing countries to assist them in creating national AIDS vaccine programs.