URMC Marks World AIDS Day with Symposium, Events

November 22, 2010

The University of Rochester Medical Center will present a symposium on the global state of AIDS vaccine research Wednesday, Dec. 1, in its Class of ’62 Auditorium.

Nelson Michael, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Retrovirology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program, will present the keynote address, titled “Towards a Globally Effective HIV Vaccine,” at 11:30 a.m. Michael was a key leader of the recent “Thai” trial, a U.S. Army-sponsored phase III clinical trial in Thailand that showed that an investigational HIV vaccine regimen was safe and modestly effective, preventing HIV infection by 31 percent.

Michael Keefer, M.D., principal investigator and director of the Rochester Victory Alliance, which conducts preventive HIV vaccine studies locally, will present an “Overview of the Global Preventive HIV Vaccine Landscape” from 11:15 to 11:30 a.m. Keefer also co-directs the Developmental Center for AIDS Research (DCFAR).

“Today there is a degree of optimism in the HIV vaccine field that I have not witnessed during my 20 years of work at URMC,” Keefer said. “The Thai trial has shown that developing a preventive vaccine is indeed possible and it has provided numerous clues that will lead to a better understanding of what we need a vaccine to do to handle different types of exposures.”

As HIV and AIDS continue to impact countries, finding an effective vaccine remains the Holy Grail of AIDS research. Although medical advances have greatly extended the life expectancy of a person infected with HIV today, there still is no cure. More than 20 million people have died from AIDS worldwide and 7,500 more people become infected every single day, according to the United Nations. At last count, there are nearly 35 million cases of HIV infection across the globe.

Cases of infection in the U.S. are on the rise among men who have sex with men (MSM). The Centers for Disease Control show that one in five MSM are HIV positive and nearly half do not know it. Young men – especially young black men – are least likely to be aware that they are infected. In the Rochester area, as in other large urban centers, gay and bi-sexual African-American and Latino men are experiencing an increase in infection rates.

URMC was among the first sites in the nation to conduct HIV vaccine research studies, beginning in 1988. Since its inception, nearly 1,300 people have participated in more than 50 vaccine research trials. The Rochester Victory Alliance is a member of the international HIV Vaccine Trials Network, which is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The Rochester Victory Alliance currently works with HIV vaccine research teams in South Africa and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Dec. 1 symposium will also include a poster session from 10 to 11:15 a.m. in the Flaum Atrium (adjacent to the Class of ’62 Auditorium). Poster awards will be presented at 12:30 p.m.

Other activities surrounding World AIDS Day include:

  • A benefit concert sponsored by the Rochester Victory Alliance and DCFAR at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 1, at Hochstein Performance Hall, 50 North Plymouth Ave. The concert is presented by PeaceArt International a not-for-profit outreach arts organization that aims to build community understanding to foster world peace. Tickets for the concert are $10 and can be purchased at Equal Grounds Coffee House (750 South Ave.), Parkleigh Pharmacy (215 Park Ave.), or Outlandish Videos and Gifts (274 N. Goodman St.). All proceeds will be donated to the Ucedo Lwabantu Project for Kids, an orphanage in Alexandra Township, South Africa.
  • An interfaith service, “Reviving the Promise,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, at St. Mary’s Church, 15 St. Mary’s Place. Speakers will include Bishop Matthew Clark, a representative from the Mayor’s Office of the City of Rochester and Michael Keefer, M.D. The service is open to the public and there is no charge for admission.

For further information about the symposium or the Rochester Victory Alliance, visit www.RochesterVictoryAlliance.org or call (585) 756-2329. For information about the concert, visit www.peaceart.org or contact Artistic Director Thomas Warfield at (585) 482-0778.

For Media Inquiries:
Carole Dowling
(585) 275-0258
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