| 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
(NIAID), a component of the National Institutes of Health, joins
with national, regional, and local HIV/AIDS groups in supporting
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
Dr. Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in
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.