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HIV/AIDS Vaccine Has Promising Results

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2009 – Through combined military research programs and medical cooperation, the Defense Department has been able to accomplish incredible promise in a future vaccine development for HIV and AIDS, a senior official in that effort said today.

“The U.S. Army has sponsored a vaccine program which has now, for the first time ever, shown efficacy in being able to protect individuals from infection with HIV,” Dr. Rick Shaffer, director of the Defense Department’s HIV and AIDS Prevention Program, said during a Military Health System “Dot Mil Docs” podcast interview.

The prevention program was established in an effort to minimize and prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS through the uniformed services, and to provide support to various countries in the fight for prevention, Shaffer said.

Comprehensive prevention programs that include policies and priorities from the highest leadership levels on down work better than individual activities and efforts, Shaffer noted, citing an interagency program called the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, a program launched to help combat global HIV and AIDS.

“We were able expand the opportunities for security cooperation through PEPFAR,” Shaffer said, adding that PEPFAR enabled department officials to broaden support to additional countries and within the countries they’re already helping.

Although the program has made amazing successes thus far, Shaffer said, it still has obstacles to overcome when it comes to prevention and treatment.

“There’s still a long way to go to make sure the treatment is accessible and comprehensive for individuals,” he said. “We have a lot to learn about how to enable individuals to get the skill to change their behavior.”

(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess serves with the Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)

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