Metro Weekly

Soldiering On for HIV Vaccine

Hope remains despite setbacks

The September 2007 announcement by Merck that the pharmaceutical giant was halting its large-scale, HIV-vaccine trial due to poor results, haunted a May 16 gathering called by Us Helping Us and The DC Center to mark HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, which officially falls on May 18.

Us Helping Us, People Into Living, with headquarters at 3636 Georgia Ave. NW, specializes in HIV/AIDS prevention and care for black gay/bisexual men. The DC Center is metro D.C.’s GLBT community center.

”There has been a lot of negative press,” began Sterling Washington, of UHU, pointing to the fallout from the Merck trial.

Added Dr. Katharine Kripke, assistant director of the Vaccine Research Program at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Division of AIDS, ”That was not the only thing there ever was or ever will be in HIV vaccine research. … There’s really a lot more going on.”

While urging others to maintain hope for vaccines to treat both those infected by HIV and those not exposed to the virus, she did, however, caution, ”Why do I still have hope? It’s just not an option to give up…. Eventually, we’ll have the right breakthroughs. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.”

Participants from NIAID added that a new mobile-clinic bus to be used for screenings and to raise vaccine-research awareness in the region has recently come online, and may be making one of its first local appearances at the Capital Pride street festival, June 15.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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