May 18, 2011
1 min read

NIAID director comments on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day

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A safe and effective HIV vaccine may be possible, according to a statement from Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH.

Fauci delivered his statement to highlight May 18 as National HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. He said he is optimistic that a vaccine will be found.

“In 2009, a clinical trial in Thailand involving 16,000 people demonstrated for the first time that a vaccine could safely prevent HIV infection in a modest proportion of study participants,” he said. “Many of the best minds in HIV vaccine science are examining blood samples and data from the Thai trial to learn how the vaccine candidate prevented HIV infections and to consider how it could be modified to be more effective.”

Fauci said NIH researchers are exploring innovative or adaptive trial designs to build on previous findings, adding that such scientific flexibility will maximize the efficiency in exploring potential vaccine candidates.

“Some NIAID-supported laboratory scientists are charting a new course by designing HIV vaccine candidates based on knowledge of the protein structure of the surface spikes that HIV uses to attach to and infect human cells,” he said. “These spikes have sites that are vulnerable to powerful antibodies, which block laboratory infection of human cells by more than 90% of tested HIV strains from around the globe.”

Fauci said vaccines are in development that will allow healthy individuals to produce the neutralizing antibodies, and further understanding of HIV transmission at the molecular level may lead to vaccine development.

Although a vaccine would be a boon to the battle against the disease, Fauci said no single prevention strategy is likely to fully defeat HIV/AIDS.

“No matter how effective a preventive HIV vaccine is, however, we will need to evaluate and administer it in combination with other biomedical and behavioral HIV prevention tools,” he said.

Fauci thanked community educators, health care workers, researchers and trial participants for their efforts.

“On this extraordinarily challenging journey to develop a preventive HIV vaccine, taking a moment today to reflect on our progress gives us all renewed hope that our goal is achievable,” he said.

For the full statement, please visit the NIAID website.

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