Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on World AIDS Day
Today is World AIDS Day, a time to pause and remember all who have
died from HIV/AIDS and reflect on the devastation this disease has
caused around the world. It also is a day to recommit ourselves
to doing all we can to develop accessible and affordable drugs to
treat HIV disease and associated infections, and to develop topical
microbicides, vaccines and other tools to prevent HIV infection.
World AIDS Day also gives us an opportunity to thank those who have
worked so hard to stop HIV/AIDS: our prevention workers, treatment
advocates, clinicians, researchers, religious leaders and, importantly,
those who have volunteered for the clinical trials that are essential
for developing new interventions against HIV/AIDS.
This year's World AIDS Day theme could not be more appropriate:
"Women, Girls, HIV and AIDS." Women are disproportionately
affected by the epidemic: they comprise more than half of the estimated
38 million people living with HIV/AIDS, including 57 percent of
those living with HIV/AIDS in resource-limited Sub-Saharan Africa.
Worldwide, the vast majority of women with HIV/AIDS became infected
via heterosexual intercourse, frequently in settings where saying
no to sex or insisting on condom use is not an option because of
cultural factors, lack of financial independence and even the threat
In the United States, the proportion of all AIDS cases reported
among adolescent and adult women has risen dramatically, from 6
percent in 1985 to 26 percent in 2002. Minority women, especially
African Americans, are disproportionately represented in these alarming
statistics. Of all AIDS cases reported in women in 2002 in the USA,
fully two-thirds were among African Americans.
Of course, these numbers do not tell the full story: the scourge
of HIV/AIDS in women cripples families, creates orphans, and impairs
the economic and social foundation of communities and nations.
To stop the disturbing trend of an increasingly female HIV/AIDS
pandemic, new ways of thinking are needed. Women must be empowered
so that they are able to control their own lives and in particular
their sexual relations. Toward that end, increased educational and
employment opportunities for girls and women are essential, including
gender-based AIDS education and societal campaigns that delineate
the harmful effects of inequality in gender relations.
On the research front, National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported
researchers and their colleagues around the world are studying the
mechanisms of HIV infection and the course of HIV/AIDS in women
in order to devise new interventions. Promising research includes
the development and testing of new candidates to be used as topical
microbicides. It is hoped that when used prior to sexual intercourse,
these agents would help protect women from HIV and other sexually
transmitted infections. NIH supports a full spectrum of topical
microbicide research, from basic research to clinical evaluation,
with the goal of developing a potentially lifesaving tool. NIH funding
for topical microbicide research rose from $47 million in fiscal
year 2001 to an estimated $70 million in fiscal year 2005.
NIH is committed to working with our many collaborators
pharmaceutical companies, universities, foreign governments and
others across the world to develop safe, effective, and affordable
drugs, microbicides, and vaccines. To accomplish these goals, however,
we must test products in clinical trials, and to conduct such trials
we must have volunteers, especially in those populations hardest
hit by the pandemic. I encourage anyone concerned about the HIV/AIDS
pandemic to learn more about ongoing research and to ask themselves
how they can help end the AIDS crisis. For example, healthy HIV-negative
individuals are needed as participants in HIV preventive vaccine
trials in many cities across the United States; people can find
out more by calling 1-800-HIV-0440 (outside of the United States,
1-301-519-0459) or visiting http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/on
the World Wide Web.
We are at a pivotal juncture in history, one where many HIV-infected
individuals are dying and HIV infection is still spreading, in spite
of our better understanding of the virus and its effects on the
human body. On World AIDS Day, we must collectively reaffirm our
commitment to do all that is possible domestically and internationally
to develop new and improved medications, topical microbicides and
a preventive vaccine, and ultimately to deliver them to those who
need them most. Today, let us also continue to honor those have
died from HIV/AIDS and use their memory to lead our efforts to end
the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Dr. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in
Bethesda, Maryland. The National Institutes of Health is an agency
of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health, an agency
of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIAID supports
basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious
diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections,
influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential agents
of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on transplantation
and immune-related illnesses, including autoimmune disorders, asthma
and allergies. Media inquiries can be directed to the NIAID OCPL media group at
301-402-1663. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials
are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.