You might be second-guessing yourself (or more likely, me) after reading the words “HIV vaccine” but yes, you did read that right.

And no, a vaccine for HIV does not exist yet. Wouldn’t it be great if a vaccine for HIV did exist though?

HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD) is today, May 18th. This day doesn’t only bring awareness to the disease but also recognizes everyone involved in the efforts to bring about an HIV vaccine – whether you’re a volunteer, healthcare professional, community member, or scientist.

Even though you might not hear about HIV or AIDS as often on the news as compared to a few decades ago, it’s still an ongoing problem around the world. Over 33 million people are living with HIV worldwide and more than 20 million people have died due to HIV/AIDS-related illnesses.

Since there’s no cure for HIV or AIDS, the best way to stop the epidemic is with preventative medicine in the form of vaccines. Once someone is diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, they need to stay on anti-viral therapy medication for the rest of their lives. But if there was a vaccine that could prevent an uninfected person from getting the virus in the first place, then obviously that lifelong medication isn’t necessary. Plus, this would lead to a lower overall number of people who are capable of passing on the virus.

Despite all the talk around the safety of vaccines lately, doctors and scientists alike agree that vaccines are a safe, low-cost way of preventing illness – such like polio, chicken pox, MMR, etc. The World Health Organization estimates that the total number of measles cases has decreased by almost 95% to date and polio has been almost completely eliminated due to their respective vaccines.

In 2013, the United States allocated $818 million towards HIV/AIDS vaccine research and development, with over 3,700 clinical trial participants. Research and science alone aren’t enough – it is efforts by these community members and volunteers that will truly make the difference in the long run.

To learn more information about how you can help with these HIV prevention efforts, visit the AVAC website (Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention) or the NIAID website (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases).

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