AID for AIDS and SIDA Fundación Team Up to Find HIV Vaccine

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Friday November 15, 2013

In an effort to fight the spread of HIV in New York and Barcelona, AID for AIDS and Fundación Lucha contra el SIDA headquartered in Barcelona have teamed up to raise funds for prevention and education, and to advance research toward and HIV vaccine. On November 4, they invited Latin Grammy Award winner Miguel Bosé to announce the partnership.

"Be a hero, that is what we are asking everyone to become," said Bosé. "This agreement is essential in the fight against AIDS and the request we are making, both here and in Barcelona, is for all to raise our voices as one, in New York through AID FOR AIDS (AFA) and in Barcelona, through the Fight Against AIDS Foundation."

Later that day, AFA Founder Jesus Aguais and FLA's Dr. Bonaventure Clotet signed an agreement to expand the capacity and reach of both organizations, not only in Spain and the U.S., but also across Latin America.

"We will be supporting each other in the research and development of an AIDS vaccine, distribution and access to medicines, primary prevention education and awareness about HIV and AIDS transmission," said Aguais.

Founded in 1996, AID FOR AIDS has grown from a simple idea of recycling unused, unexpired HIV medications in the United States and redistributing them to patients with HIV or AIDS in developing countries without access to treatment. AID FOR AIDS is now an international organization running the largest HIV medicine-recycling program in the world. They provide prevention education, case management and advocacy in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

"This agreement will advance our goals at the Foundation to research and study HIV infection, help patients and research new medicines and treatments," added Clotet. "We are hopeful this campaign will allow us to advance our projects including clinical trials and innovative medicines."

Partnering to Find an HIV Vaccine

In a recent interview with EDGE, Aguais and Clotet noted that aside from a few pharmaceutical companies and large research institutions, vaccine related efforts depended on collaboration between multiple partners. Teaming up is the best way to help accelerate the development and eventual human testing of future vaccine candidates.

Now, both groups will contribute to sustainable funding, patient access, community support and education, technological expertise, test lab infrastructure and other components needed to bring potential HIV vaccines to the human clinical testing stage.

"By joining forces, we hope to overcome financial, technical and logistical hurdles that slow down this process and thus accelerate the creation of an effective HIV vaccine," said Aguais.

Both agree that creating a successful HIV vaccine is the most affordable and most effective approach to end the pandemic. Scaling up global access to HIV drugs is slow and expensive. Side effects and resistance mutations also make it less than ideal.

Currently, their vaccine research has entered into Phase I trials with therapeutic vaccine candidates, and they are currently conducting a cutting edge clinical trial combining the selection of most promising volunteers -- early infected and early treated individuals. They will use the two vaccine vectors that have shown the strongest in vivo immunogenicity.

"We have also initiated the production of an entirely new vaccine candidate that will enter human clinical Phase I testing toward the end of 2014," said Clotet.

In the case that a successful vaccine is generated, Clotet and Aguais said that their priority will be to make sure that it is distributed across the world, anywhere that it is needed.

"If the created collaboration leads to the creation of an effective vaccine, this will not only be shared between the two countries, rather, it will be distributed globally," said Aguais.

To help the groups reach their goal of $1M in fundraising by December 1, World AIDS Day, please visit the AID for AIDS website or text "LIFE" to 41010 to donate $10 to the cause.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.