As communities around the globe commemorate World AIDS Day, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will announce a new initiative and strategic plan for global research on HIV/AIDS aimed at slowing the disaster and reversing its destruction of communities, economies and nations worldwide.
Jack Whitescarver, Ph.D., acting director of the NIH Office of AIDS Research, will formally announce the new plan at the NIH World AIDS Day ceremony on Friday, December 1 at noon in Masur Auditorium on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.
According to Dr. Whitescarver, "A strong, coordinated biomedical research effort is critical to address the global pandemic. Through the Global AIDS Research Initiative and Strategic Plan, NIH reaffirms our long-standing commitment to international AIDS research and significantly increases our research efforts to benefit resource- and infrastructure-poor nations."
To launch this new initiative, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), will discuss recent developments in the epidemiology, pathogenesis, treatment and prevention of HIV disease, with a special focus on the NIH commitment to global health and international research to curb the AIDS pandemic in a talk entitled, "AIDS: Domestic and Global Considerations for the 21st Century." The event will be broadcast on the Internet at http://videocast.nih.gov.
The strategic plan was developed by NIH's Office of AIDS Research (OAR) and includes research goals for the major international efforts of the NIH's research institutes and centers. "It is our sincere hope that the fruits of this research will help to alleviate the suffering caused by HIV and AIDS throughout the world," Dr. Fauci said.
AIDS is reversing decades of public health progress, lowering life expectancy and significantly affecting international businesses. Lost productivity and profitability, the cost of sickness and death benefits, and the decline in a skilled workforce in the developing world will have economic effects worldwide. AIDS is affecting the military capabilities of some countries as well as the international peacekeeping forces.
Since the early days of the epidemic, the NIH has supported research efforts in countries affected by AIDS. Beginning in 1984 with a research project in Haiti and the establishment along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of Projet SIDA in 1985 in what was then Zaire, NIH has maintained a strong international research portfolio. The NIH has expanded this effort to encompass more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. The development of research infrastructure, including training of scientists and health care providers, is an essential component of these NIH research programs.
Strategic Plan for International AIDS Research
OAR convened a group of experts from academia, industry and community representatives to develop the plan, based on the most compelling scientific priorities that will lead to better therapies and prevention strategies for HIV infection and AIDS around the world. The OAR is mandated by Congress to develop an annual comprehensive AIDS research plan and budget. The international research agenda will now be a highlighted area in the overall annual plan, representing an integral and critical component of the NIH scientific agenda. The document has been posted on the web at http://www.nih.gov/od/oar.
Global AIDS Research Initiative
To carry out the strategic plan, OAR is establishing the Global AIDS Research Initiative. This initiative will:
- increase the investment in global AIDS research.
- establish new funding approaches and new research opportunities.
- provide support for long-term research infrastructure.
- provide funding for development of new prevention strategies.
- support international conferences and workshops with scholarships for scientists from developing nations.
- develop and support information dissemination and translation of research results relevant to resource-poor settings.
- coordinate global AIDS research policy issues.
- support training workshops to help international investigators prepare research grants and establish partnerships.
- address obstacles to conducting international research.
Funding International Research
In Fiscal Year 2001, NIH will spend more than $100 million on AIDS research conducted with international partners. In addition to that sum, NIH will increase its already significant commitment to global research including research on vaccines to carry out the President's mandate in this area, microbicides, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and research to find cheaper and less complicated therapies that may be administered in resource-poor nations.
Leadership and Coordination
To assure that the goals of this initiative are met, OAR is establishing a high-level working group, comprised of the top officials of each of the NIH institutes supporting international AIDS research. This working group will be co-chaired by the director of OAR and NIAID's Dr. Fauci. This group will foster collaboration and partnerships with other federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Global Strategy Group
To link federal research efforts with international partners, OAR will establish the Global Strategy Group. This group, co-chaired by the director of the OAR and director of NIAID, will include policymakers, ethicists, experts from academia, foundations, international organizations and leading scientists from around the world. This group will help determine the critical research priorities and steps necessary to achieve the research goals.
The Office of AIDS Research is located within the Office of the Director of NIH, and coordinates the scientific, budgetary, legislative and policy elements of the NIH AIDS research program. OAR sets the scientific agenda for the large and diverse NIH AIDS research program through the development of an annual comprehensive AIDS research plan and budget.