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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Awards Three-Year Grant to AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC), AVAC Announces Appointment of New Executive Director

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January 23, 2002

Washington, D.C. - The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a grant of $600,000 over three years to the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC). Founded in 1995, AVAC is a consumer-based advocacy organization working to speed development and delivery of AIDS vaccines to populations throughout the world.

AVAC also announced today the appointment of Chris Collins as its new Executive Director. "Expanded consumer-based advocacy is essential in order to accelerate development and delivery of vaccines for AIDS," Collins said. "It is now clear that an AIDS vaccine is possible. The question is how soon we find it and who gets it when we do. Public support and engagement will be crucial in addressing many of the challenges in AIDS vaccine research and delivery. We thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its continuing leadership on global health, and look forward to expanding our efforts with the foundation's generous support."

Collins is a cofounder of AVAC, and is currently a Principal with Progressive Health Partners, a health policy consulting company. He previously handled health policy and appropriations for Rep. Nancy Pelosi. He is the primary author of two University of California, San Francisco monographs: Sustaining Support for Domestic HIV Vaccine Research (1996) and The Policy of AIDS Vaccines (2001), and was the key architect of pending legislation to give incentives to industry to develop vaccines and microbicides against the globally most deadly infectious diseases. "The AVAC board couldn't be happier that Chris Collins has agreed to lead AVAC. Chris is committed, superbly qualified and able to raise the organization's profile and expand on its unique activities to help make a global preventive HIV vaccine a reality," notes Bill Snow, a founding member of AVAC's Board.

"Stopping the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the foundation's number one global health priority," affirmed Dr. Helene Gayle, senior advisor on HIV/AIDS for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Developing a vaccine for AIDS in the near term and focusing on prevention in the immediate term are our most pressing and promising imperatives. AVAC's contribution to vaccine development and delivery is critical to our continued momentum and ultimate success."

AVAC is a group of volunteer advocates, supported by a small professional staff, that has become a leading national voice on AIDS vaccines. In May of each year, AVAC releases a report analyzing the state of AIDS vaccine research and identifying needed actions in the public and private sectors to advance development and eventual delivery of vaccines for AIDS. AVAC also works to mobilize community support for AIDS vaccine research, develops and distributes educational materials, and advocates for expanded attention to AIDS vaccines in government and industry. AVAC staff and board members participate in a variety of national and international advisory boards shaping clinical trials, public policy, and communications strategies concerning AIDS vaccines.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community. Led by Bill Gates' father, William H. Gates Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an asset base of $23.4 billion. For complete information, visit http://gatesfoundation.org/.