December 1 will mark the 28th observance of World AIDS Day. The global public health campaign is devoted to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease.
Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control.
As of 2013, AIDS has killed more than 36 million people worldwide (1981-2012), and an estimated 35.3 million people are living with HIV, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Despite recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claims an estimated 2 million lives each year, of which about 270,000 are children.
But there is hope. In fact, Wednesday marked a major breakthrough in the fight against the HIV virus, which if controlled can prevent full blown AIDS from developing.
In Johannesburg, South Africa, a new clinical trial was launched to test a new vaccine. The study, called HVTN 702, aims to enroll 5,400 sexually active men and women aged between 18 and 35 at 15 sites across South Africa.
It will be the largest and most advanced HIV vaccine clinical trial to take place in South Africa, where more than 1,000 people a day are infected with the disease.
Researchers say even moderate success would “significantly decrease the burden of HIV disease over time in countries and populations with high rates of HIV infection, such as South Africa.”
The new vaccine aims to provide greater and more sustained protection and has been adapted to the HIV subtype that predominates in southern Africa. This is significant because many times darker populations are underrepresented in medical research.
Volunteers for the study, funded by NIAID, are being randomly assigned to receive either the vaccine regimen or a placebo. All participants will receive five injections over a year.
Participants who become infected with HIV in the community will be referred to local medical providers for care and treatment and will be counseled on how to reduce their risk of transmitting the virus.
South Africa has more than 6.8 million people living with HIV. If an HIV vaccine were found to work in South Africa, it could dramatically alter the course of the pandemic
World AIDS Day is one of the eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization(WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Malaria Day and World Hepatitis Day.