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Keeping our #EyesOnTheTarget of Ending the HIV Epidemic

Today, Monday 18 May 2020 is World HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD2020). Since 1997 May 18 has been set aside to celebrate all the volunteers, community members, health professionals, and scientists who have dedicated their lives to finding a safe and effective preventive HIV vaccine. It is also a time to remind ourselves of the important role an HIV vaccine could play in ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

This year as we mark HVAD2020, the world is occupied with managing a new global pandemic – the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Since an outbreak of COVID-19 was first reported in China in December 2019, the disease has spread to every continent except Antarctica. Within just three months of the disease being declared a public health emergency of international concern world leaders, organizations and financial institutions pledged USD8 billion for research to find a vaccine against the disease. The significance of this show of solidarity is the recognition of the need for multi-nation collaboration and a focus on global access.

The global response to COVID-19 reinforces the clarion call of the HIV vaccine research and development fraternity – we need all hands on deck to overcome the four-decade long HIV epidemic. With new HIV infections not declining fast enough, we have already missed the UNAIDS 2020 targets to end the epidemic

While we take on new global health challenges, we should not take our eyes off the target of stopping new HIV infections. Adding a safe, effective vaccine to the current prevention toolkit could very well be the game changer!