Today is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day!

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Did you know – despite everything we’ve learned about HIV, the number of new infections each year is close to what it was in the mid-1990s: the total figure today is 2.7 million? Antiretroviral treatment (ART) helps keep HIV at low levels within the body, but ART can have side effects and must be taken every day for a lifetime. What’s more, access to life-saving treatment can be an issue for people living with HIV in developing countries. Thanks to programs like the Global Fund and PEPFAR, treatment is increasingly available, but it still only reaches a third of people who need it to survive.

We must continue to extend current prevention, care and treatment options to as many people as possible to mitigate AIDS here and now, but we must also invest in the future to bring the epidemic to an end. Continued investment in prevention research, to include new tools like vaccines, microbicides and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), will produce net savings in the long term – and save lives.

In fact, only vaccines have historically ended major viral epidemics. They are proven to be cost-effective and practical. There will be an AIDS vaccine in our lifetime, and we must continue the search.

So today, on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, I urge you to become informed about AIDS vaccine research. We all have a role to play whether it is as advocates, volunteers, health professionals or researchers.

For those of you reading this blog who are already involved – today (and every day) is an opportunity to say thank you!

-Nicole Schiegg, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative–Washington, D.C.

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