This week more than a thousand of the world's experts on HIV vaccine science gathered in Atlanta to attend AIDS Vaccine 2010, the leading international meeting focused specifically on HIV vaccine research and development.
The U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy, released in July, is critically important and forward thinking, but it is only part of the effort needed to stem the spread of this deadly disease. Just as vaccines have been the most effective public health intervention for other challenging infectious diseases, a safe, effective, accessible HIV vaccine must be a top priority in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
At AIDS Vaccine 2009 in Paris, scientists reported on RV144, the HIV vaccine regimen that demonstrated the first proof of the concept that a vaccine can confer some degree of protection against HIV in humans. This landmark result breathed new life and new hope into vaccine research.
Here in Atlanta, scientists at the Emory Vaccine Center and Yerkes National Primate Research Center...have developed a promising HIV vaccine candidate that is now being developed and tested through local biotech company GeoVax Inc., with ongoing human clinical trials in Atlanta and around the United States in both uninfected and infected individuals.
Emory investigators at the Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center are participating in testing HIV vaccines as part of the HIV Vaccine Clinical Trials Network. This week's conference will report on promising progress with these vaccines and will include updates on the RV144 vaccine trial results.
From basic science to clinical research, from public policy to funding, the scientists in Atlanta this week will be focused in a united effort to conquer one of the greatest public health challenges of our time through the development of one of the most critical public health tools of our time -- a safe and effective HIV vaccine. For the benefit of the world's populations we cannot afford to fail in our efforts to achieve this goal.
Bernstein is the executive director of Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise. Hunter is codirector of the Emory Center for AIDS Research.