Today is World AIDS Day. I can’t believe it’s been a year since my trip to South Africa with Johnson & Johnson. That trip introduced me to real life heroes, reminded me just how prevalent HIV/AIDS still is, and brought hope and promise for a world free of the virus within our lifetime. Johnson & Johnson brought a diverse group of us to South Africa to attend the Global Citizen Festival, which raised a commitment of over $7 billion, part of which will be used to #makeHIVhistory. Johnson & Johnson also made a major announcement at the festival about the incredible research they’ve been working on and how they would be conducting a clinical trial for an HIV vaccine within Africa. That first clinical trial is focused on evaluating the vaccine and its efficacy amongst a group of 2,600 courageous volunteers in different countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
Fast forward 1 year later and Johnson & Johnson is ready to launch a phase 3 efficacy trial. This trial will have a target enrollment of 3,800 individuals in eight countries across North America, South America and Europe. This trial is different because it will be focused on gay men and the transgender community aged 18-60, many of whom face life threatening discrimination and to whom preventative medicine is often limited. By participating in this trial, they’ll have their chance to be seen and to potentially change history.
All these stats and vaccine facts can be staggering, so to help humanize what I’m talking about here, I want to remind you of the mothers we met in South Africa last year. Mothers who are in fact infected with HIV. Yet through the help of programs that J&J supports, such as mothers2mothers, their children have successfully remained HIV free!
Our path to eradicate HIV/AIDS is still a long one, and for that reason I am so grateful for programs like mothers2mothers and women like Thandeka and Eunice, both of whom serve as Mentor Mothers with the organization. They use their personal success stories to support new families affected by the virus and educate them and their surrounding communities to help break some of the stigma around it.