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May 18 is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day

( - May 12, 2004) May 18th marks the seventh annual HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. It is a day to educate Americans about the urgent need for preventive HIV vaccines and to thank participants in HIV vaccine trials for their selfless dedication to ending the HIV pandemic. This year's theme is "Real People, Real Progress," embodying the thousands of volunteers and researchers involved in the search for effective preventive HIV vaccines.

HIV/AIDS continues to devastate communities in the United States and around the world Approximately 40 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. In the United States, nearly one million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and more than 40,000 people become infected with HIV each year. HIV is the number one killer of African-American men between the ages of 25 and 44, and the third leading cause of death among Latinos between the ages of 35 and 44. It also is the third leading cause of death among all women between the ages of 25 and 44.

While people of color are overrepresented among U.S. HIV/AIDS cases, they are underrepresented in U.S. preventive HIV vaccine trials. Many reasons account for this, but one fact remains resolutely and absolutely clear: when we find a vaccine we will want to be able to show that it works for everyone regardless of their race, ethnicity or gender. To accomplish this, all communities must be involved in the search for a vaccine. Future trials will require more individuals to volunteer than ever before, and those individuals must be representative of the most affected communities.

NIAID's Vaccine Research Center, the NIAID-supported HIV Vaccine Trials Network and our colleagues in the public and private sectors are leading the effort to test HIV vaccines. Many community-based and national organizations are working with NIAID and taking a strong leadership role in educating their constituents about ongoing research by providing accurate, timely and culturally relevant information.

For the second year in a row, the day will be commemorated with a twist on a familiar symbol of AIDS awareness, the red ribbon. I ask you to wear your AIDS ribbon upside-down to symbolize a "V" for vaccines and the vision of a world without AIDS. Ultimately, this vision is our best hope for all. And it is in this spirit of hope that I join with those in the United States and the world in commemorating and honoring this valiant effort.

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