May 18, 2010

May 18, 2010
HIV Vaccine Awareness Day

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Tuesday and I hope you are having a safe and great day. Today is also HIV Vaccine Awareness Day!

Dab the AIDS Bear Project joins the rest of the country in honoring HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD), which is held annually on May 18 to recognize and thank volunteers, health professionals, scientists and community members who are working together to find a safe and effective HIV vaccine.

An HIV vaccine may be our best hope to ending the global AIDS pandemic. More than 25 million people have died of AIDS worldwide since 1981. Over one million of these deaths have occurred in the Unite States, where HIV has disproportionately impacted often marginalized and vulnerable populations within communities of color since the epidemic began, including: women, transgendered women, injection drug users, men who have sex with men, among others. Indeed, the very future of communities of color – and African American and Latino communities in particular, which together account for nearly 70% of all new HIV infections reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) annually – could depend upon the discovery of a vaccine.

Though no major viral epidemic has ever been defeated without a vaccine, participation by people of color in HIV vaccine trials has been limited due to misconceptions about the research process. Dab the AIDS Bear Project has been helping to educate communities about HIV vaccine research through its work as a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases HIV Vaccine Research Education Initiative (NHVREI) program partner, since 2008.

Dab the AIDS Bear Project furthered its HIV education efforts in communities of color in January 2009, with the launch of a one year, grassroots driven pilot program that trained community leaders in African American and Latino communities to be messengers or “community liaisons.” Seven volunteers were selected to share information they learned about HIV vaccine research with family members, friends and associates in informal gatherings and structured educational meetings. Together, the community liaisons reached just under 650 people, in less than two months. This new audience, in turn, enlisted nearly 350 additional "messengers" to share HIV vaccine information with three additional people.

Based on the initial success of this pilot program, Dab the AIDS Bear Project supports HIV vaccine research, as well as related evidence based community health education activities, which possibly could be adjusted to facilitate outreach efforts around other diseases impacting hard to reach communities. In addition, Dab the AIDS Project calls for additional research to create evidenced based HIV vaccine education models that incorporate emerging electronic New Media/social networking tools, including texting, Facebook and Twitter.

Dab the AIDS Bear Project also recognizes that an HIV vaccine alone cannot end AIDS; but will need to be used in concert with other scientifically proven HIV prevention tools currently being used/developed, including pre-exposure prophylaxis with antiretroviral drugs; microbicides; and expanded HIV testing and treatment with linkage to care.

So as more and more states start having an ADAP waiting lists, Dab the AIDS Bear Project hopes for the day when a cure and vaccine are finally a reality.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope and happiness.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab