Welcome to the latest edition of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) Community Compass.
In this issue, we highlight some of the recent World AIDS Day activities, updates from some of our sites and about some of our studies, dive deeper into upcoming phase 1 broadly neutralizing studies, as well as a very personal interview with our very own Dr. Larry Corey. The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which can result in COVID-19 disease has also cut short the life of one of our beloved colleagues, Professor Gita Ramjee, who, in addition to having been a renowned scientist and role model to many, also served as Chief Specialist Scientist and Director of the HIV Prevention Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council in Durban, South Africa.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken center stage, becoming the topic of conversation in nearly every virtual space that I access. Many cities have some sort of “Stay at Home” order* in place. On social media, I see posts daily from people who express concerns about (or barriers to) getting tested; concerns about themselves, friends, or family members who have possible or actual symptoms of the virus; and have seen just as many posts about people who have died as a result of complications of COVID-19. As I have sat and pondered about what to pen for this letter, I have thought many times about the relationship between this disease and others, including HIV, specifically for people and communities who are more vulnerable to negative health outcomes due to oppressive systems and structures. Similar to HIV and many other diseases, COVID-19 illustrates the very real impacts of bias in healthcare/medical systems, poverty, historical trauma, and other conditions impacting many communities, including communities of color.
I believe we will see this pandemic end, but we cannot achieve this end ethically by leaving anyone behind, or without ensuring that appropriate efforts are focused on those who are most vulnerable. There are many stakeholder mobilization efforts happening in local and national settings around the world with goals of raising awareness about these issues, and ensuring resources and solutions are inclusive of those most impacted and vulnerable. We are a global community; let us work together in response to this pandemic.
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" page.
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 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.
Stephaun E. Wallace, PhD
Editor-in-Chief, HVTN Community Compass
Note: This was true at the time of writing in April 2020. Please follow your institutional guidance regarding any updates on COVID-19 in your location.