A Time for Thanks in HIV Prevention
At this time of year when we reflect on the many things for which we are thankful, we are profoundly thankful for the great leaps forward in the field of HIV prevention, and the many people who are helping to make this happen.
This past summer, the International AIDS Conference returned to the US for the first time since 1990 after President Obama ended the decades old HIV travel ban. Activists, researchers, policy makers, and people living with HIV were all energized by the possibility of ending AIDS. As we reflect on this possibility, there are several important advances in HIV prevention which will help us achieve this goal. Three years ago, researchers leading the largest ever HIV vaccine study of more than 16,000 people in Thailand, infused us with great hope that a preventive HIV vaccine is truly possible. They found that a combination of two preventive HIV vaccines lowered the rate of new HIV infections by 31% in men and women. Since then, scientists from around the world have uncovered possible mechanisms for this protection and have designed new vaccines to achieve higher levels of long-lasting protection. The last several years have also brought major breakthroughs in HIV prevention, including an anti-HIV pill that can prevent new infections when taken daily, and the FDA licensure of a home HIV test kit to help people learn their HIV infection status. We’ve also learned that early treatment of HIV infected individuals promotes long-term health and has a profound impact on reducing the risk of transmission to sexual partners. Finally, we have advanced our understanding of how HIV lives in the body, and are making our first strides toward finding a cure. In combination, these studies have re-ignited hope that we can finally end the HIV epidemic.
At Bridge HIV (formerly known as the HIV Research Section) at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, we are most grateful to the thousands of men and women in San Francisco, and the many more around the world, who have directly helped make these breakthroughs a reality. People have participated in so many ways – as study volunteers, as members of our Community Advisory Groups, and as our community partners and collaborators, who have come together to find effective prevention strategies. Currently in San Francisco, we are testing the next generation of vaccines, anti-HIV medications (in both pill and lubricant form), home testing, and online tools for individuals and couples, all designed to prevent HIV infection in men and women. We are doing this through global collaborations with scientists and community members, dedicated to bringing an end to this epidemic. You can learn more about these efforts on our website, www.bridgehiv.org.
As World AIDS Day 2012 approaches on December 1st, we want to express our profound appreciation to the many study volunteers, community partners, activists, care providers, researchers, and local leaders who have joined in the quest to end HIV. Working together, we believe that San Francisco can be help lead the way to an AIDS Free Generation.