Two Chicago AIDS organizations--the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and Working for Togetherness--have been chosen by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to participate in a campaign to educate HIV-affected communities in Illinois about HIV vaccine research. The AIDS Foundation of Chicago was awarded $20,000 to conduct HIV vaccine presentations across Illinois. Working for Togetherness received $20,000 to provide HIV vaccine education through mobile multimedia street outreach, cable television shows, and workshops. Both groups are sponsoring activities for HIV Vaccine Awareness Day on May 18. This year's event theme of "Real People, Real Progress" acknowledges the thousands of volunteers, scientists, and health professionals working on finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent HIV.
The agencies are two of only 20 groups nationwide to receive funding for the NIAID's National HIV Vaccine Communications Campaign. "HIV vaccines are still years away from reality, yet many Americans believe that a vaccine exists," said Mark Ishaug, executive director of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. "Our goal is to share scientifically accurate information about how vaccine research and clinical trials work so that those at risk for HIV understand the benefits of vaccine development."
According to an NIAID survey, 20% of the general population--and higher percentages of African-Americans and Latinos--believe an HIV vaccine already exists. Clinical trials in countries around the world are under way to test potential HIV vaccines, but none have yet resulted in an effective prevention tool. "It is important that people impacted by HIV are part of the discussion about prevention and the role of HIV vaccines," said Clifford Armstead, executive director of Working for Togetherness. "This funding will allow us to begin this critical conversation."