HIV Vaccine Awareness Day 2019

May 21, 2019

May 18 was HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. The following is a statement by Anthony S. Fauci, MD, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Maureen M. Goodenow, PhD, NIH Associate Director for AIDS Research and Director, Office of AIDS Research:

Since the first cases of what would become known as HIV/AIDS were initially reported in 1981, scientists and public health officials have been working to better understand HIV, develop strategies to effectively treat and prevent infection, and bring about an end to the pandemic. This effort remains a critical focus globally and for the United States.

While the ambitious Plan for America aims to end HIV as an epidemic within the U.S. in 10 years, achieving a durable end to the pandemic will almost certainly require a safe and effective HIV vaccine. The development and deployment of an effective vaccine would provide long-lasting protection and alleviate the need to depend heavily on prevention methods that require continued access and adherence. Such a vaccine, along with the optimal implementation of existing HIV treatment and prevention strategies would achieve the goal of durably ending the HIV epidemic in this country and worldwide. For geographic areas where the implementation of treatment and prevention is complicated by various social, economic and political concerns, a vaccine is critical to halting the epidemic. Indeed, even in countries with a good track record of implementing HIV treatment and prevention tools, a vaccine would hasten the end of the epidemic and ensure its durability.

In this regard, NIH is pursuing two scientific paths to develop a safe and effective HIV vaccine. One path aims to build on the promise of modest results seen in RV144, the U.S. Army-led HIV vaccine trial in Thailand. RV144 was the first and only trial to-date to demonstrate that an HIV vaccine can protect against infection. The Phase 2b/3 HIV vaccine trial HVTN 702 began on World AIDS Day 2016 and has nearly completed enrollment of 5,400 men and women in South Africa. Another large vaccine efficacy clinical trial called HVTN 705/HPX2008 or Imbokodo launched in 2017. This Phase 2b proof-of-concept trial is evaluating an investigational vaccine regimen designed to induce immune responses against a variety of global HIV strains. This trial is nearing complete enrollment of 2,600 women in sub-Saharan Africa.

The second path to developing an HIV vaccine is based on theory and involves studying the body’s immune response to HIV infection and generating and enhancing those responses through vaccination. The main theoretical approach to developing an HIV vaccine aims to prevent HIV infection by eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs)—antibodies shown in the laboratory to stop most HIV strains from infecting human cells. Some people living with HIV naturally produce bNAbs. However, these antibodies develop too late after initial infection to clear the virus. Scientists at NIH and other institutions have isolated numerous bNAbs from people living with HIV and are working to develop vaccines that elicit these antibodies in healthy people.

Two experimental structure-based vaccines aimed at eliciting bNAbs directed against various components of the HIV envelope are in or near the early stages of human study. A Phase 1 trial testing the BG505 SOSIP.664 gp140 trimer vaccine candidate is currently enrolling men and women in Boston; Seattle; and Nairobi, Kenya. Planning for a Phase 1 clinical trial to test a fusion peptide HIV vaccine developed by scientists at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center also is under way.

In addition to attempts to elicit antibodies to HIV via a vaccine, two multinational clinical trials are testing whether it is possible to prevent HIV by directly infusing people with bNAbs several times a year. Known as the AMP Studies, for antibody-mediated prevention, these trials have completed enrollment of 4,600 men and women across four continents.

NIH has the full statement