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National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Monday, February 7, 2005

NIAID News Office

Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day

Today, February 7th, marks the fifth annual observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day — part of a critical effort encouraging individuals to get tested, educated and involved in HIV research activities. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a component of the National Institutes of Health, joins with national, regional, and local HIV/AIDS groups in supporting this collaborative effort to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS among African-Americans and to mobilize African-American communities to get involved.

Although significant progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the African- American community continues to be disproportionately affected by the epidemic. African- Americans make up approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population, but account for approximately half of newly reported HIV infections. In the United States, HIV/AIDS has claimed the lives of more than 195,000 African-Americans since the epidemic began. Globally, a large proportion of the estimated 39 million people living with HIV/AIDS are African or of African descent, as evidenced by the huge burden of disease in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.

In recent years, an increasing number of African-American women and children are being affected by HIV/AIDS. In 2003, two-thirds of U.S. AIDS cases in both women and children were among African-Americans.

These disturbing statistics underscore the importance of our robust commitment to prevention, treatment, and vaccine research as part of NIAID’s comprehensive strategy against HIV/AIDS. Aided by breakthroughs in the basic sciences, NIAID-supported researchers and other colleagues around the world are working to discover new drugs and more effective combinations of existing antiretroviral drugs to treat those already infected with HIV. At the same time, NIAID supports broad-based prevention research, including the development of topical microbicides, substances that women could use to protect themselves against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. NIAID remains committed to developing approaches that can empower women to become educated and proactive in protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS.

Despite the efforts of researchers, doctors, nurses, educators and communities across the world, an HIV vaccine still does not exist. However, NIAID remains firmly committed to the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine, and many vaccine candidates are now being tested in clinical trials globally. Among many efforts, a large clinical trial testing a novel and promising HIV vaccine candidate began enrollment last month. This trial is a collaboration between Merck & Co. Inc and NIAID’s multicenter HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN). It is essential that diverse communities, including African-Americans, volunteer for this trial and other HIV/AIDS clinical trials so that we can learn if drug regimens or vaccine candidates work for everyone. This clinical trial, among others supported by NIAID, needs a diverse cohort of participants to ensure that research findings will be credible, acceptable, and relevant to all populations in the U.S.

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day is an opportunity to educate our communities about research progress in the areas of prevention, care and treatment options, and the importance of research to find new treatment regimens, microbicides and vaccines. Ending the AIDS crisis among African-Americans in this country requires collaborative efforts by everyone — pharmaceutical companies, government institutions, universities, non-profit organizations, communities and individuals.

I commend and support all those who have taken a leadership role in promoting HIV prevention education, treatment and care, as well as those who have volunteered for the clinical research studies that move us closer to a cure and a vaccine. We all have a role to play in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and I thank all those who are working to reduce the burden of this terrible scourge.

Further information about National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day is available at http://www.blackaidsday.org/. Information on treatment and vaccine clinical trials is available at http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov.

Dr. Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

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 Office of Communications and Public Liaison at 301-402-1663.

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