Volume 18, Issue 1

Translations (pdf ): Spanish  |  French  |  Portuguese

Letter from the Editor

Stephaun E. Wallace, Editor-in-Chief
Stephaun E. Wallace,

Welcome to the newest edition of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) Community Compass.

For more than 30 years, HIV/AIDS has continued to ravage families and communities in the United States, and around the world. Social and structural factors such as stigma/discrimination, heterosexism, poverty, intimate partner violence, economics, cultural and social norms regarding gender and sex assigned at birth, sexuality, and ethnicity/race are some of the many forces that complicate HIV prevention and treatment strategies.  These issues work together to increase the HIV risk for people in many communities. This is not romanticizing; this is the reality. We have come very far in the last 3 decades in reducing new HIV cases and slowing disease progression globally, but many places remain heavily burdened by HIV, so the work must continue. Biomedical HIV prevention research has laid a path toward ending the epidemic, and many biomedical advances have supported this journey. Much of the focus of biomedical HIV prevention has focused on four key areas: vaccines, microbicides, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and treatment as prevention. HIV clinical research broadly, however, has produced some significant advances that have supported our achievements thus far in HIV prevention, and I believe will support an eventual end to the HIV epidemic in the future.

In 1985, HIV testing in the United States became possible due to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) licensure of the first commercial HIV antibody test known as ELISA[1]. This was an important step, which allowed blood screening to occur by testing for antibodies to HIV. In 1987, the FDA approved the first drug to treat HIV called zidovudine (AZT)[2], and that same year the FDA approved another test to detect HIV antibodies called Western Blot[3]. More recently in 2011, a landmark global HIV clinical research study, HPTN 052, showed that among serodiscordant couples (where one partner is living with HIV and the other is not), HIV transmission can be reduced by up to 96% when the partner living with HIV starts HIV treatment early, is adherent to treatment, and is virally suppressed[4] (an undetectable viral load). In 2012, the FDA approved the HIV treatment medication Truvada for use by persons who are HIV negative to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, in a strategy called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP[5]. These are truly just a few of the advances that HIV clinical research has supported in the effort to prevent HIV and reduce the burden of HIV around the world.

As always, the best part for us is when we hear from you, the HVTN community. We thank you for your previous feedback and continue to welcome your feedback about how we are doing. We have received numerous responses to the Community Compass Experience Survey, and I would like to take a moment to highlight some of the feedback here. Many of you have indicated that you really enjoy reading the science updates, special feature articles, and photo albums. Everyone who has responded thus far has found the magazine to be a quality publication, and has remarked positively to the updates we have made to the publication. Some of the specific feedback we have received as opportunities for improvement include (but are not limited to) adding more content about HIV, HIV science, clinical research site community engagement best practices, and clinical research site engagement with community advisory boards (CABs); as well as adding an app-based platform. You have my word that we will review all of your feedback and work to incorporate what we can.

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 newly developed submission page that offers the ability to submit content and articles for inclusion in future issues. More information about this follows under 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 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 an effective global 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.

Be well,

Stephaun E. Wallace
Editor-in-Chief, HVTN Community Compass
HVTN Senior Community Engagement Project Manager


[1] Roberts, B.D. (1994) 'HIV Antibody Testing Methods' Journal of Insurance Medicine 26(1):13-14

[2] AIDSinfo (1987, 20 March) 'Approval of AZT'

[3] The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation (2014) 'HIV Testing in the United States'

[4] Cohen, M.S. et al (2011) 'Prevention of HIV-1 Infection with Early Antiretroviral Therapy' The New England Journal of Medicine 365(5):493-505

[5] U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (2012) 'FDA Approves First Medication to Reduce HIV Risk'