There have been major advances in treatment and prevention since AIDS was first diagnosed 33 years ago. But the HIV virus continues to devastate millions of people, families and communities around the world.
HIV has infected 78 million people – and half of them have died. Last year alone, 1.5 million people died from HIV/AIDS and 2.1 million – that’s 5,750 a day – became infected. Some 35 million people globally live with HIV today, including almost 6 million people under the age of 25 in sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet many people today mistakenly view HIV/AIDS as a manageable disease, as no longer an urgent priority. Funding for prevention research has flattened – despite optimism about promising advances in scientific progress.
“The tragedy of Ebola has been a stark reminder of the dangers of complacency,” said Margie McGlynn, IAVI President and CEO. “Now, more than ever before, we need to invest in the innovative research it will take to end these deadly diseases. ”On this World AIDS Day, IAVI and our many partners remember the millions of lives taken and torn apart by HIV/AIDS. And we honor their memories with a renewed commitment to build on the scientific momentum that will lead to a vaccine. Together, we can achieve a world without AIDS.
to watch IAVI’s WAD slideshow.
IAVI and Partners Share Research Progress, Explore Collaborations at HIV R4P
At the end of October, IAVI proudly participated in the inaugural HIV R4P (HIV Research for Prevention) conference in Cape Town, South Africa. The conference gathered vaccine, microbicide and other prevention researchers together for the first time, drawing 1,350 attendees from almost 50 countries, and featured 722 abstract presentations, four plenaries and 17 symposia/roundtables and generating more than 100 news stories from The Zimbabwe Mail to ModernUganda.com to NBCNews.com to Le Monde.
Attendees were clearly energized as they shared the latest scientific advances and explored synergies through enhanced collaborations across disciplines and geographies to accelerate research and development toward a vaccine and other HIV prevention options. Speaker after speaker stressed some key, unifying themes: Combination prevention research and African leadership are the ways forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Adding a vaccine will be critical to ending the epidemic. We all must focus better on most-affected populations and the “emerging science of delivery.” And we all must speak up against the flattening funding that holds back innovative and promising science.
IAVI partnered with scores of organizations on more than 60 accepted abstracts, three symposia talks and five very well-attended satellite sessions with renowned speakers on key issues such as access to a vaccine, synergies between AIDS vaccine and cure research, and the early infection insights that are guiding vaccine design. We also partnered on a reception and photo exhibit celebrating the science-community partnerships that will lead to a vaccine against HIV/AIDS. Event co-hosts included MHRP, HVTN, NIAID, amfAR, IAS, University of KwaZulu-Natal, UNAIDS and AVAC. You can view conference webcasts and presentations at this link.
Raising the Voices of Africa's Youth
At HIV R4P, IAVI partner GYCA launched the Talking Voices video project, which highlights the perspectives of young people, researchers and policy makers in Africa on the need for a vaccine and other new HIV prevention options. The video is part of a larger IAVI-GYCA collaboration to empower young people in Africa to be drivers of change and build a cadre of effective and accountable leaders and advocates for youth engagement in HIV prevention issues. As part of this partnership, GYCA has successfully trained more than 20 youth advocates, organized events at several high-profile conferences and engaged in high-profile interactions with African policymakers.
Continuing to Step Up Response in Uganda’s Hard-Hit Fishing Communities
In some Uganda Lake Victoria fishing villages as many as 37% of people live with HIV, and the overall rate of HIV infection in fishing communities is 3-5 times higher than that found in the general population. Enhanced community understanding and engagement in the research process is a critical step in improving access to existing HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, as well as toward being able to conduct vaccine trials in this vulnerable population in the future. In their continuing efforts, IAVI and our partners recently supported the training of Village Health Team (VHT) members and peer leaders from fishing communities spanning three districts and 12 villages in HIV, health care and referral management. The training also covered the rationale for conducting research in fishing communities, community expectations from research and research participants’ rights. Also this year, IAVI supported the Uganda Ministry of Health and Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) to convene stakeholders to discuss strategies to accelerate provision of HIV prevention to the fishing communities; the resulting recommendations informed the development of a road map to guide policy makers and implementing partners.
India Partnership Launches Pilot R&D Acceleration Program
IAVI and the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) are partnering to help catalyze and plan an immunology-based clinical research initiative by the Government of India. The initiative, launched this fall, aims to accelerate research for biopharmaceuticals including vaccines against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, by ensuring development of platform technologies to facilitate pathogen-specific discovery and manufacturing. Meanwhile, scientists at the HIV Vaccine Translational Research Laboratory, a joint venture between IAVI and the Government of India, are exploring new targets for vaccine design by expanding research based on broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) collected in India as part of the landmark Protocol G studies in a cohort of 1,800 HIV-positive people around the world.
NIAID, IAVI and AVAC on CSIS Panel, "Ending Epidemics Through Technology"
On 4 November, IAVI President and CEO Margie McGlynn joined Dr. Tony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and Mitchell Warren, Director of AVAC (Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention), for a panel discussion about progress toward a vaccine against HIV/AIDS. Hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., the event drew 150 attendees and underscored the need for a vaccine and for the sustained international political and financial commitment to ensure that promising discoveries can be developed into actual products.
Tony Fauci presented an overview of the current HIV/AIDS response and its limitations, and explained how a vaccine will fit into the prevention continuum. A vaccine will be essential to “durably control and end the AIDS epidemic,” he said. AVACs Mitchell Warren observed that HIV vaccine research has been a long and winding road but that scientists are optimistic about the fields progress, from RV144 follow-up to deeper explorations of broadly neutralizing antibodies, and reiterated that diverse support will be critical to continued success. Public and private funding must sustainably reflect the robust pipeline of ideas and activities that will deliver on the promise of a vaccine, he said.
Margie McGlynn shared modeling data that illustrated how an effectively rolled-out AIDS vaccine could avert up to 42 million infections by 2070, driving new annual infections down to approximately 50,000 (from 2.1 million in 2013), and stressed the need for continued long-term vision, support and determination – especially in these days of constrained resources. “Recent discoveries have revolutionized AIDS vaccine research and development,” she said. “Imagine what the world would be like today if [Jonas Salk] and the March of Dimes had given up 50 years ago on the polio vaccine.”
Click here for a recording of the webcast and the panelists' slides.
How Can We Get Closer to Zero?
As last month’s inaugural HIV R4P conference reported on the latest scientific progress toward a vaccine and other new prevention options, UNAIDS outlined frameworks for the investment in and future roll-out of these options.
The UNAIDS Enhanced Investment Framework (IFE), published in PLoS One in November and funded in part by IAVI through USAID, highlights how scaling up existing tools and adding a vaccine and other new prevention options could reduce annual HIV infections to approximately 80,000 by 2050, from 2.1 million in 2013. IAVI further expanded and refined the vaccine-specific assumptions to explore the potential impact and cost-effectiveness of an AIDS vaccine in more detail within the IFE framework, the first results of which were presented by IAVI President & CEO Margie McGlynn at the HIV R4P conference and the CSIS event described above.
Meanwhile, UNAIDS published an argument to “fast track” the HIV/AIDS response, accelerating the investment in and roll-out of treatment even further during the “fragile window” of the next five years by ensuring that 90% of HIV-positive people know their status, 90% of those people access antiretroviral treatment, and 90% of people on treatment show a suppressed viral load that strongly reduces the risk of them transmitting the virus.
IAVI Welcomes Lisa Meadowcroft as Vice President, External Relations
IAVI is very pleased to welcome Lisa Meadowcroft as our new Vice President, External Relations. Based in the New York office as of 3 November, she will lead development and implementation of IAVI’s global resource mobilization, advocacy, policy and communications strategies.
Lisa brings more than 20 years of experience in international relief and development, championing some of the world’s most vulnerable groups. For more than 10 years, she served as a senior leader and Executive Director U.S. for the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF Health Africa), the largest African-led public health organization, providing preventive and community-based services in more than 30 countries. Under her leadership of AMREF USA, annual revenue increased ten-fold, programs were significantly expanded and a diversified board was recruited. Lisa is also co-founder of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, an alliance of U.S.-based organizations committed to strategic investment in the global health workforce.