In this issue, we celebrate a recently launched scientific development leadership program under the direction of Dr. Alison Roxby, we revisit the critical role that language and effective community engagement plays in the COVID-19 response, and we recognize the very important role that faith has in many people’s lives and the critical role that faith communities have and continue to play in the HIV response. In this issue we also celebrate new hires Daniel Driffin and Kyle Gordon to the External Relations team, get an update on the activities of our HANC/Legacy Project partners, and catch an opinion piece on vaccine equity by our colleague Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC that was featured in the publication The Hill. We also must celebrate the amazing work that has went into developing the Red Ribbon Registry and the marketing campaign that accompanies it (which you can review by going to www.helpendhiv.org), and the amazing work that went into the refresh of our HVTN.org website. If you haven’t checked it out lately, I encourage you to do so!
The HVTN, including our partners and communities, played a monumental role in the response to COVID-19 through the work of the COVID-19 Prevention Network. We have, and continue to see, an unprecedented level of innovation in science and clinical trials, meaningful and cross-cutting engagement of communities and stakeholders, and resource allocation to support prevention and treatment options for COVID-19, as well as testing and other services. Though this pandemic has caused death and destruction, I also recognize the countless numbers of lives that have been saved through our collective efforts. It is truly historic and noteworthy, and a moment in which we can all take pride. While COVID-19 restrictions are shifting in many places, and many communities around the world have opened up, some places around the world have reverted back to mandatory masking and other restrictions. We must continue to acknowledge that the pandemic is not yet over, especially as we see diverse variants circulating that are being monitored for their potential to evade the immune responses created by our highly effective COVID-19 vaccines. We must continue the important discussions about the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that can be applied to HIV, and continue to stretch our thinking and expanding our hearts and minds to ensure that we are collectively moving in ways that do not leave people behind.
Finding a safe and effective HIV vaccine remains a key priority for the Network and our communities. Over the next couple of years, we will see many early phase studies launch which are focused on testing the safety of HIV vaccine candidates and exploring other strategies to vaccine development. These studies are in smaller numbers of people; however, we do have one large scale HIV vaccine study that is still active, Mosaico (www.mosaicostudy.org), and we are looking forward to seeing results in the near future. This study uses a mosaic-based platform which supports the evaluation of the vaccine across various types of HIV found around the world.
As we continue onward in our effort to find a safe and effective HIV vaccine, a few questions continue to come up in my conversations with stakeholders including, “how did we get a COVID-19 vaccine within one year but we are 40+ years into HIV and have not come up with a viable vaccine?” This is such an important question, and truly my response cannot be overstated. HIV and SARS-CoV-2 are very different viruses, with HIV developing a tremendous number of variants, which makes it a constantly moving target. One thing we learned from the COVID-19 trials is that investments in rapid iteration of trials reap early benefits – and this is even more important as we refocus attention on an HIV vaccine. Whenever these or other questions are asked, I feel a sense of gratitude and appreciation that people remain concerned about this disease and finding an HIV vaccine.
Please help us ensure that this publication is representative of our entire global HVTN community! HVTN members (who have access to the HVTN member's website) can use our submission page that offers the ability to submit content and articles for inclusion in future issues. More information about this follows on the "Meet the Community Compass Team" section.
Thank you for your continued support of the HVTN wherever you are in the world, for the work that you do in whatever role you have in the HVTN community, and for the impact we have been able to make in our collective history and communities, together. Though we have come very far in response to the HIV epidemic, we have so much further to go to achieve a globally effective HIV vaccine. The HVTN Community Compass team wants to be everywhere you are, so please share with us what's happening at your research sites, institutions, and in your communities, so that we can share it with the world.
Stephaun E. Wallace, Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief, HVTN Community Compass