World AIDS Day: Getting to Zero

On December 1 each year, you will find countries around the world commemorating World AIDS Day to raise awareness of the spreading of HIV infection. Each year, a theme is chosen for the campaign by UNAIDS. Starting in 2008, the World AIDS Campaign’s Global Steering Committee has chosen the theme, with the input from other organizations and government agencies. This year’s theme is “Getting to Zero,” which refers to zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths this year.

One way to accomplish “getting to zero” is implementing vaccine trials, according to a release issued by GeoVax Labs, a biotechnology company located in Atlanta, Georgia, that creates and tests HIV/AIDS vaccines. However, a common problem many trials face is recruiting participants from at-risk communities. To reveal the reasons behind the lack of participation, researchers from the University of Toronto coordinated a study targeting nine focus groups made up of at-risk persons. In the end, the surveys exposed many misconceptions the individuals had regarding the vaccine trials. Recently, TheBody.com reported that many people do not take part in these trials because they believe it puts them at risk of getting AIDS, and they are skeptical of why the trials target people living in at-risk communities.

Gay and bisexual black men are one of the most susceptible populations and account for almost 25% of new HIV infections in the United States. The number of new infections overall has not changed significantly, with roughly 50,000 cases every year. However, vaccine developments and social initiatives are developed with frequency. A new $2.4 million campaign by the CDC was announced in November 2011, targeting gay and bisexual black men and encouraging them to be tested.