To mark HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, has renewed its call for a sustained worldwide commitment to finding an effective HIV vaccine. Steadfast in leaving nobody behind in the HIV response, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé explained: “A vaccine would be a major step towards ending the AIDS epidemic.”

The UN agency elaborates that one major advantage of vaccines is that they promote equity and can be used effectively in all communities and settings, including where many other health services may be harder to deliver. “There have been encouraging recent scientific advances that give us hope for the future development of an HIV vaccine,” Ms. Sidibé said in a press release on the Day, marked annually on 18 May, pointing to studies that indicate with great promise the feasibility of an HIV vaccine.

The clinical RV144 vaccine trial in 2009, which combined two vaccines that failed on their own, lowered the rate of HIV infection by 31 per cent – offering hope that further research building on this test will deliver results. Newer vaccine candidates, as well as neutralizing antibodies, are also being studied.

Vaccines have effectively controlled a number of infectious diseases, including diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, mumps, measles and rubella; have eradicated smallpox; and are close to eradicating polio. However, in 2013, HIV vaccine research and development dipped to its lowest investment decline since 2008, according to the agency. In order to transform promising concepts into an effective and accessible vaccine, increased and sustained funding is critical.

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