HIV Vaccine Awareness Day 2018 Celebrating a turning point in HIV vaccine science

What is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day?

HIV Vaccine Awareness Day on 18 May commemorates U.S. President Bill Clinton’s 1997 declaration:

“Only a truly effective, preventive HIV vaccine can limit and eventually eliminate the threat of AIDS.”

Ending AIDS will require using all the tools we have, and more: A vaccine.

This year marks at a turning point in that effort.

This year marks first time that HIV vaccine candidates that were rationally designed to induce antibodies against the virus will ever be tested in humans.

  • After many attempts at using an empiric approach to develop a vaccine, a new generation of vaccine candidates are poised to enter clinical trials in 2018.
  • These candidates are the result of more than 15 years of concerted effort to understand the structure of the virus and its interaction with the immune system in unprecedented detail.
  • Scientists widely agree that this new generation of vaccine immunogens present the most promising path toward developing a vaccine that could provide protective and durable immunity against HIV.
  • While there will likely be many other obstacles to overcome, the data from these trials will help investigators hone in on the approaches that are most effective and optimize them for further study
Two large efficacy studies of different vaccine candidates are already underway.

Two vaccine efficacy trials, HVTN 702 and HVTN 705, are ongoing in Africa. The former is testing an optimized version of the only HIV vaccine ever to show efficacy in humans. The latter is a Janssen-designed candidate that contains what is called a mosaic insert, which is an engineered protein designed to protect against a wide range of HIV strains. Designing vaccines that address the global diversity of HIV is one of the many challenges for vaccine researchers.

Finding an HIV vaccine is still a monumental scientific challenge. But modeling shows us that the vaccine won't need to be perfect to make a big difference.

Statistical projections indicate that a vaccine that provides 60% protection, combined with the currently available and emerging approaches for prevention and "treatment as prevention" could prevent as many as 20 million new infections in the decade following introduction of the vaccine.

The search for an HIV vaccine is providing new insights into other ways to treat, prevent, or even cure HIV/AIDS using antibodies – insights that can also be applied to other diseases.

The discovery of HIV antibodies is revolutionizing the field of vaccinology.

  • The isolation and characterization of antibodies from HIV-infected people is providing a roadmap for vaccine researchers. Antibodies are an essential component of the immune response to all viruses. But for many reasons, the types of antibodies that might best protect against HIV (so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies or bNAbs) are particularly difficult to elicit through vaccination. But they do occur, albeit rarely, in some chronically HIV-infected people. The first of these rare yet powerful antibodies were identified by IAVI and partners through large epidemiological studies of HIV-infected individuals in sub-Saharan Africa[2].
  • Since then, hundreds of other antibodies were isolated and characterized, providing researchers with invaluable clues about how antibodies develop in natural infection and how to induce them through vaccination. The panoply of antibody discoveries are fueling the design of targeted vaccine candidates, including some that will enter clinical trials imminently.
  • Even before a vaccine is available, these bnAbs may have a role in directly preventing, treating, or even curing HIV. Direct injection of bNAbs, an approach referred to as antibody-mediated prophylaxis, can protect against HIV infection in animal models. Efficacy trials with some HIV antibodies are already ongoing. Meanwhile, researchers are exploring various ways to improve the potency and staying power of bNAbs so that fewer injections are required and less antibody is necessary, all of which will help lower the cost of such an approach. These antibodies are also being combined with innovative approaches as part of an HIV cure strategy that is in preclinical development.
  • The lessons vaccine researchers have learned from their work in antibody discovery and characterization are directly applicable to the development of other vaccines, and are also spurring the use of monoclonal antibodies as a preventive or therapeutic approach for many other existing or emerging infectious diseases.

The need for an HIV vaccine continues to be a global health urgency.

  • Today millions of people are living longer, healthier lives, thanks to the dramatic increase in availability of life-saving HIV care, treatment globally. However, the rate of new HIV infections remains flat, and AIDS still kills 1 million people each year. Even a partially effective vaccine will save lives [7, 8].
  • About half of all people living with HIV are currently receiving life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. This is a tremendous success story. But it also means that treatment and prevention tools are not getting to half of all people living with HIV. As more people become infected with HIV, the cost of providing lifelong ARV treatment will continue to grow. This is particularly burdensome for developing countries already adversely affected by the epidemic. And many people with HIV don’t even know they’re infected. [7]
  • Increasingly, people are becoming resistant to the most common ARVs. In some regions, these resistant strains are becoming alarmingly frequent, raising the concern that increasing numbers of HIV-infected individuals will not respond to treatment with the most common and affordable ARVs. More and better tools, including a vaccine, are needed to curb the epidemic [9, 10].
  • The world’s largest-ever generation of young people is aging towards adolescence and young adulthood. Experts warn that an increase in new HIV infections is inevitable unless rates of viral suppression are sharply increased and rates of HIV transmission are substantially lowered. [11,12].

Spread the word

Sample Tweets

It's an exciting time in #HIV vaccines! The new generation of vaccines being tested this year will help scientists home in on the best approaches to #EndAIDS4Good. #VaccinesWork #HVAD2018 bit.ly/iavihvad2018

On #HVAD2018 we’re at a turning point in the search for an #HIV vaccine. Keeping the momentum is critical if we want to #EndAIDS4Good! bit.ly/iavihvad2018

The search for an HIV vaccine is transforming the way scientists think about treatment, prevention, and cure – and not just for #HIV. #VaccinesWork #EndAIDS4Good #HVAD2018 bit.ly/iavihvad2018

To truly #EndAIDS4Good we need all of the tools at hand, and more. We need a vaccine. #VaccinesWork #HVAD2018 bit.ly/iavihvad2018

Even a partially effective #HIV vaccine would save millions of lives when combined with the currently available and emerging approaches for prevention #VaccinesWork #EndAIDS4Good #HVAD2018 bit.ly/iavihvad2018

Sample Facebook & LinkedIn Posts

It’s an exciting time in HIV vaccine science! This year marks first time that HIV vaccine candidates that were rationally designed to induce antibodies against the virus will ever be tested in humans. bit.ly/iavihvad2018

May 18 is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. Did you know that no infectious disease in history has ever ended without a vaccine? Vaccines work. That’s why we need one for AIDS. bit.ly/iavihvad2018

An HIV vaccine remains an urgent global health need in 2018. With two large HIV vaccine trials ongoing in sub-Saharan Africa and two more soon to start, the world is at a turning point. Let’s keep up the momentum! bit.ly/iavihvad2018


1. HVTN studies. https://www.hvtn.org/en/science/HVTN-studies.html.

2. Walker, L.M., et al., Broad and potent neutralizing antibodies from an African donor reveal a new HIV-1 vaccine target. Science, 2009. 326(5950): p. 285-9.

3. Rappuoli, R., et al., Reverse vaccinology 2.0: Human immunology instructs vaccine antigen design. The Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2016. 213(4): p. 469-481.

4. Gray, E.S., et al., The neutralization breadth of HIV-1 develops incrementally over four years and is associated with CD4+ T cell decline and high viral load during acute infection. J Virol, 2011. 85(10): p. 4828-40.

5. Harmon, T.M., et al., Exploring the Potential Health Impact and Cost-Effectiveness of AIDS Vaccine within a Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Response in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. PLoS One, 2016. 11(1): p. e0146387.

6. Medlock, J., et al., Effectiveness of UNAIDS targets and HIV vaccination across 127 countries. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2017. 114(15): p. 4017-4022.

7. UNAIDS, Prevention Gap Report. 2016. http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/documents/2016/prevention-gap

8. Abdool Karim, Q., C. Baxter, and D. Birx, Prevention of HIV in Adolescent Girls and Young Women: Key to an AIDS-Free Generation. JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 2017. 75: p. S17-S26.

9. Gupta, R.K., et al., HIV-1 drug resistance before initiation or re-initiation of first-line antiretroviral therapy in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Lancet Infect Dis, 2018. 18(3): p. 346-355.

10. Gupta, R.K., et al., Global trends in antiretroviral resistance in treatment-naive individuals with HIV after rollout of antiretroviral treatment in resource-limited settings: a global collaborative study and meta-regression analysis. Lancet, 2012. 380(9849): p. 1250-8.

11. Slogrove, A.L., et al., Living and dying to be counted: What we know about the epidemiology of the global adolescent HIV epidemic. Journal of the International AIDS Society, 2017. 20(Suppl 3): p. 21520.

12. Granich, R., et al., 90-90-90 and ending AIDS: necessary and feasible. Lancet, 2017. 390(10092): p. 341-343.

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