Julio Montaner, Myron Cohen and Jon Cohen, are National Hope is a Vaccine Award Winners, 2011

Providence, R.I. — November 29, 2011 — Access to treatment is the main reason that AIDS-related deaths have tumbled in recent years. That’s something 2011 Hope Is a Vaccine Award winners (International Category), Julio Montaner and Myron Cohen, would have predicted. The two award winners are ardent supporters of the “Treatment as Prevention” approach to ending AIDS, in the absence of an effective vaccine. The approach is strongly supported by recent statistics released by UNAIDS to commemorate World AIDS Day on Dec 1, 2011. UNAIDS also stated ”An estimated 700,000 AIDS-related deaths were estimated to have been averted in 2010 alone, due to improved access to care in places like sub-Saharan Africa, which recorded a 20-percent jump in people undergoing treatment between 2009 and 2010. 1.8 million deaths world wide were linked to AIDS in the past year, down from a peak of 2.2 million last seen in 2006.

Dr. Myron Cohen is responsible for the publication of a landmark study in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year that showed that treatment with AIDS drugs, known as anti retrovirals (ARV), effectively prevents HIV transmission. In the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 052 study, individuals who received ARV treatment early in their infection were at least 96% less likely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners than those who started on drugs later. The reduction in transmission is due to lower amounts of circulating virus in the blood of the HIV-infected patient, while they are on ARV treatment.

Dr. Cohen earned the 2011 Hope is a Vaccine award for his dedication to providing a scientific foundation for the Treatment as Prevention. His primary research focus is on transmission and prevention of transmission of HIV, with emphasis on the role played by other sexually transmitted disease (STD) co-infections.  Much of Dr. Cohen’s research has been conducted in resource constrained countries, especially in the African country of Malawi and in the People’s Republic of China. He is currently the J. Herbert Bate Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Julio Montaner has also been an outspoken advocate of the Treatment as Prevention approach, also known as TasP. He has been a forceful advocate for expanded access to ARVs as early as 2006 and promoted TasP as president of the International AIDS Society and in many scientific publications. He is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is awarded the Hope is a Vaccine Award 2011 in honor of his worldwide advocacy for “Treatment as Prevention”. He is a Professor of Medicine at University of British Columbia (UBC) and is the Director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.  He has been a member of the International AIDS Society (IAS) since 1988, and is the IAS past President (2008-2010).

  • National Hope is a Vaccine Award 2011: Jon Cohen, journalist, Science

Jon Cohen is a correspondent with Science who has covered HIV/AIDS from every angle – starting with his award-winning report on the epi-center of the epidemic in the former Zaire, and later reports on excursions to report on HIV/AIDS in the former Soviet Republic, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. His book entitled Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine (W.W. Norton, 2001) won many awards and inspired a documentary movie. Along the way, he has accumulated an impressive knowledge of the personalities and players in the AIDS Vaccine field and is well known for his insightful reporting on that topic. The National Hope is a Vaccine Award 2010 goes to Jon because of his dedication to the HIV/AIDS chronicle and his commitment to ‘telling the whole story’.

  • Local Hope is a Vaccine Award Winner: Paul Loberti., Public Health HIV/AIDS and TB Prevention expert based in Providence, RI

Paul Loberti, MPH, is the Chief Administrator of the Office of HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis at the Rhode Island Department of Health. In this capacity he directs HIV, AIDS and Viral Hepatitis prevention and care efforts for the state. He has been an unfailingly devoted proponent of HIV prevention as a means of addressing the HIV epidemic – leading prevention campaigns in bathhouses among other locations. He has been at the Rhode Island Department of Health for approximately fifteen years.

  • About the Hope is a Vaccine Award

The Hope is a Vaccine Award, awarded annually to deserving individuals working in the international, national and local fight against HIV/AIDS, highlights the important work done by individuals fighting AIDS and their contributions to improving HIV care for persons living at the margins. GAIA VF hopes that the award will shed light on the hard work done by courageous advocates, scientists, and policy makers, and that the award will encourage more individuals to be engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS world wide.

Previous winners of the Hope is a Vaccine Award include:

2003: Neal Nathanson, M.D. former polio vaccine pioneer and former director of the Office for AIDS Research, NIH. Also celebrated: David Weiner, AIDS vaccine researcher, Ken Mayer, HIV expert, and DeeDee Williams, HIV vaccine trial participant.

2004: Peggy Johnston, Ph.D. Associate Director, Division of AIDS, NIAID, NIH. Also celebrated:  Susan Cu Uvin, M.D (MTCTP
advocate) and  Ousmane Koita, Ph.D. Malian HIV vaccine researcher.

2005: Jose Esparza, M.D. Director of the Global AIDS Vaccine Initiative, at the Gates Foundation. Also receiving Hope is a Vaccine
Award 2005 were Habib Koite (international music artist) and President A. T. Toure of Mali.

2006: Sonia Erlich Sachs M.D. and Jeff Sachs Ph.D. of Millennium Village Project. Also celebrated: TB clinician and patient advocate, Jane Carter, M.D., and 3 local awardees.

2007: Stephen Lewis, former UN Ambassador for AIDS. Also receiving an award in 2007: HIV Vaccine Researcher Judy Lieberman, M.D., Ph.D. and Leigh Blake of Keep a Child Alive.

2008: Daniel Halperin, Ph.D., proponent of male circumcision and birth control for HIV/AIDS prevention. Also celebrated in 2008: Prison HIV experts Rick Altice, David Thomas, David Paar, David Wohl, and Joe Bick, National Hope is a Vaccine Award winners, and Jesse Creel, Hope is a Vaccine 2008 Advocacy award winner.

2009: Ira Magaziner, architect of the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative and TB vaccine visionary