May 18, 2006
NEW YORK, 18 May, 2006 - Along with the rest of the global community, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) commemorates today, May 18, World AIDS Vaccine Day - a day to renew commitments to the research and development of new preventive technologies to halt the HIV/AIDS epidemic. On this day nine years ago, U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton challenged the world to battle the “global killer” by developing an AIDS vaccine.
In the last decade, the international community has made great strides in expanding prevention, care and treatment programs, but as AIDS marks its 25th year, the disease is outpacing our global response. The number of new HIV infections continues to climb globally, and over three million die of AIDS each year. Today, HIV/AIDS is undermining progress toward meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals - internationally agreed-upon targets to slash poverty and raise living standards worldwide.
“Today, more than ever, global leaders must ensure a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS that balances rapid expansion of existing HIV prevention programs with strategic long-term investments in new alternatives,” said Seth Berkley, M.D., President and CEO of IAVI. “We cannot afford to wait another quarter of a century to reverse these devastating trends.”
Every day, an estimated 14,000 people become infected with HIV/AIDS, 95% of them in developing countries. In countries and communities around the world, AIDS devastates families and communities, reduces economic growth and deprives resource-limited countries of teachers, health care providers and agricultural workers.
While providing universal access to treatment is critically important, it is neither a cure, nor a sustainable medical or financial solution. Growing numbers of infected people and increasing biological resistance to the least expensive therapies are placing an enormous burden on national treasuries and health systems in countries around the world. Unless new infections are lowered through better prevention, underpinned by new tools like a vaccine, the costs of AIDS treatment will continue to escalate in the coming years, pushing adequate supplies increasingly out of reach for poor countries and international donor agencies.
Today, close to 30 vaccine candidates are in human trials. In just the last year, IAVI and its partners launched new clinical trials in South Africa, Zambia, India, Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. But scientific, economic and political challenges remain. Currently, only a small handful of private companies are engaged in vaccine research. New government incentives, including advance market commitments and tax credits, are urgently needed to spur private sector involvement in new vaccine discovery.
Global spending on AIDS vaccine development, although growing, still falls short of what is needed. The international community must expand R & D capacity in developing countries, where AIDS is taking its greatest toll. Investments in scientific teams and infrastructure, clinical trial sites, and stronger ethical and regulatory agencies would also accelerate research and development and help prepare communities for eventual access to vaccines.
“We must continue to harness the world’s vast scientific talent and financial resources to speed the development of AIDS vaccines,” said Berkley. “This is the best hope of ultimately saving millions of lives and ending the greatest health crisis of our time.”
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is a global not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the development of safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccines for use throughout the world. Founded in 1996 and operational in 23 countries, IAVI and its network of collaborators research and develop vaccine candidates. IAVI's financial and in-kind supporters include the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The New York Community Trust, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Starr Foundation; the Governments of the Basque Country, Canada, Denmark, European Union, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States; multilateral organizations such as The World Bank; corporate donors including BD (Becton, Dickinson & Co.), Continental Airlines, DHL and Pfizer; leading AIDS charities such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Crusaid, Deutsche AIDS-Stiftung, and Until There's A Cure Foundation; other private donors such as the Haas Charitable Trusts; and many generous individuals from around the world