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By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – The 2011 international winners of the Hope Is A Vaccine Award awards were announced Tuesday by the Global Alliance to Immunize against AIDS, or GAIA, Vaccine Foundation, in celebration of World AIDS day on Dec. 1.
The winners of the awards, presented by the Providence-based foundation, include:
Dr. Myron Cohen, the J. Herbert Bate Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cohen was responsible for the landmark study published 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. Cohen was cited for his dedication to providing a scientific foundation for “Treatment as Prevention” advocacy.
Dr. Julio Montaner, professor of Medicine at University of British Columbia and director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Montaner was honored for his worldwide advocacy on behalf of “Treatment as Prevention.”
Jon Cohen, a journalist at Science magazine, who was cited for his dedication to the HIV/AIDS chronicle and his commitment to “telling the whole story.”
In addition, the “local” Hope is a Vaccine Award was won by Paul Loberti, the chief administrator of the Office of HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis at the R.I.Department of Health, who directs HIV, AIDS and Viral Hepatitis prevention and care efforts for the state. Loberti was cited for being an unfailingly devoted proponent of HIV prevention as a means of addressing the HIV epidemic.
“Can you imagine ending AIDS? These guys will do it,” said Dr. Anne S. De Groot, who directs the Institute for Information and Immunology at the University of Rhode Island and who is carrying forward preclinical studies of the GAIA HIV/AIDS vaccine. “A Nobel prize is being discussed,” she said. “This is groundbreaking work that we are celebrating.”
The mission of GAIA Vaccine Foundation is “global vaccine, global access.” The goal is to distribute the HIV vaccine developed as a result of this project at no profit in developing countries. The foundation is also working hard to curb HIV infections on a global scale. Since the development of a globally relevant, globally accessible vaccine is years away, the foundation also coordinates HIV education, prevention and access to care programs. In keeping with these objectives, the foundation has built the Hope Center Clinic, a new HIV treatment center in Sikoro, Mali.