According to the USA Today, the only vaccine to complete two large-scale clinical trials, AIDSVAX, proved a flop. A major Thai trial now enrolling patients and using a two-vaccine approach has drawn criticism for including the failed vaccine. Most of the 30 vaccine candidates now in the pipeline are relatively untested, and they're so similar that if one fails, they all may fail.
If that isn't discouraging enough, the next wave of large-scale human trials will be especially challenging because countries with the biggest epidemics lack the resources needed to study thousands of patients.
“Only a vaccine can end the epidemic," said Seth Berkley, president of the International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), which is spearheading the hunt for vaccine protection against the human immunodeficiency virus, reports Dispatch Online.
"There hasn't been a serious effort, and until there is a serious effort, we'll never get there."
USA Today informs that four years ago, the initiative called for tripling annual research money to $1.1 billion. Funding now totals $650 million; $100 million comes from drug companies, which is 1% of what the companies spend on health product development, says Scientific Blueprint 2004, the initiative's report released Monday. According to Straits Times, UNAids, a United Nations programme, has just reported that prevention messages reach only one in five people who should be targeted. If African countries have been derelict, a likely conclusion, the conference should find out why and not point fingers. Africa is saddled with a whole host of social problems. HIV-Aids is only one. The continent needs the most help, but rich countries are asking for a reduction in Aids prevention budgets on the astounding ground that weak health services could not absorb all that money. Thailand has also been slipping in its hugely successful prevention programme, which brought an 80 per cent reduction in infections between 1991 and 2003 (143,000 down to 20,000). The lesson learnt is that funding and public education cannot ever be relaxed. UNAids also says that nine out of 10 sufferers worldwide who need treatment are not receiving it. But even as the morality of making generics of expensive anti-retroviral drugs widely available is no longer argued about, the big drug firms with the connivance of some governments are doing their best to drag out patent protections.
In funding terms, vaccines have always been the poor cousin of research into treatments, which are far more profitable for pharmaceutical giants. In scientific terms, no-one yet knows what is the genetic recipe of antibodies or immune cells that can be primed for destroying the virus. In a planetary population of six billion, not a single person has ever been found whose immune system eradicated an infection by HIV. - Sapa-AFP
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