World AIDS Vaccine Day, also known as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, is observed on May 18, annually. The event highlights the urgent need for a vaccine that might prevent Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The event also honours the countless health professionals, scientists, community members and volunteers who are helping to develop an AIDS vaccine.
World AIDS Vaccine Day: History
World AIDS Vaccine Day was conceptualised following a speech by former United States President Bill Clinton, on May 18, 1997, at the Morgan State University, Maryland. He said that, “only a truly effective, preventive HIV vaccine can limit and eventually eliminate the threat of AIDS,” as noted by HIVinfo website.
On May 18, the following year, people celebrated the first anniversary of Clinton’s speech, which became the first World AIDS Vaccine Day or HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. The annual tradition has continued across the globe ever since.
World AIDS Vaccine Day: Significance
HIV gradually weakens the immune system in humans and exposes people to pathogens that take advantage of compromised immunity which causes life-threatening complications. An HIV vaccine, which could be preventive or therapeutic, is thus an absolute need.
Research on a HIV vaccine began in 1987 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland, US. Covid-19 vaccine research has helped speed-up this process. As noted in an article on the non-profit National Public Radio (NPR) website, Immunologist William Schief of the Scripps Research Institute is working on an HIV vaccine that uses the same mRNA technology used in Covid vaccines.
Dr Derseree Archary, a senior scientist at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) says, “I know this experimental vaccine sounds like science fiction, but I think in the next 5, 6 years, we should have a vaccine, hopefully, that may be able to confer some degree of protection against HIV.”
World AIDS Vaccine Day: Theme for 2022
A theme for this year’s celebration of World AIDS Vaccine Day, also known as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, has not been announced yet. You can visit HIV.gov website for further updates: https://www.hiv.gov/events/awareness-days