In 1995, nine HIV treatment activists founded the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, now AVAC, to speed the development of preventive HIV vaccines. Within a year, this small group published the first annual Industry Investment in HIV Vaccine Research report and incorporated as a non-profit organization. Six of the original nine founders still sit on AVAC's board.
After a decade of pushing key stakeholders for funding and smart decision making to further AIDS vaccine research and development, and using our proven methods and credibility to respond to initial controversies related to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) research, we expanded our mandate.
We believe that the struggle to end the AIDS epidemic is, above all, a struggle to provide truly effective HIV prevention. This means continued scientific research to develop long-term solutions, such as HIV vaccines and a functional cure.
At the same time, it means gathering the evidence needed to demonstrate real-world effectiveness of emerging and newly available biomedical prevention tools, including PrEP and microbicides. And it means expanding the delivery of proven prevention options, such as treatment as prevention, female and male condoms, voluntary medical male circumcision, prevention of vertical transmission, and HIV and STI testing. All of these are necessary elements of a comprehensive response to the epidemic.
AVAC's work cuts across these different prevention approaches. It includes a range of activities aimed at addressing:
- Ethical issues, including community involvement in research.
- Standards of prevention and care in trials.
- Strategic rollout of prevention strategies for those with the highest risk of infection.
- Community engagement and research literacy outside the context of a specific clinical trial or intervention.
As AVAC continues to grow, we remain committed to the values on which we were founded. Advocates and community members must continue to play a leading role in defining the HIV research and program agenda. It will take all of us working together to end AIDS.