News / Africa

Report Outlines Challenges and Opportunities in Finding AIDS Vaccine

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Joe DeCapua

At the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna, a new report outlines the challenges and opportunities facing vaccine researchers.  The report – The Road to Prevention – is called a scientific strategic plan to help end the epidemic.

The Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise – an alliance of independent organizations – issued the report Sunday.

Executive Director Alan Bernstein says, “The report is a preview of the strategic plan for the Enterprise, which is going to be released in September at the annual AIDS vaccine conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  It outlines some of the key challenges facing the field and suggests to some extent some ways forward.  If we’re going to stop this epidemic, we need to define a clear road to prevention.”

Working in combination with other prevention efforts

“There are other strategies in play.  Things like microbicides, pre-exposure prophylaxis, treatment as prevention, circumcision.  But we certainly know for other infectious diseases, from polio to HPV (Human Papillomavirus), that the best way to stop a virus and probably the cheapest is with a vaccine,” he says.

A microbicide can be a vaginal cream, gel or suppository that kills the AIDS virus.  Pre-exposure prophylaxis would use anti-retroviral drugs as a preventive measure, instead of treatment later on when the immune system starts to fail.

Alan Bernstein, Executive Director, Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise
Alan Bernstein, Executive Director, Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise

There are several major challenges to a vaccine.  One is the virus itself, which Bernstein calls “clever.”

“It has this ability to mutate and alter itself very quickly and very profoundly.  You know, flu changes, let’s say, once a season.  So we have a year to tool up to make a vaccine and it’s relatively easy actually to make a vaccine against flu.  But even then it changes once a year.  HIV changes daily even within one infected individual,” he says.

Another big challenge is money

“It’s difficult at the moment to raise money for any kind of research given the current economic situation globally, including HIV vaccine research.  But it’s very frustrating at the moment because on the one hand I think we all should be worried that this epidemic is reaching crisis proportions.  The new money for treatment that UNAIDS calls for today is not readily available.  And yet, more and more people are getting infected,” he says.

Scientists know HIV has a weakness.  But they must find a way to exploit it.

Bernstein says, “Every living thing must have an Achilles’ heel.  The virus can’t change everything about it and still be viable - still be able to grow inside ourselves.”

Scientists recently announced they had uncovered naturally occurring anti-bodies in some HIV positive people that prevent the virus from entering cells.  The finding presents an opportunity for vaccine research.  The trick now is to find a vaccine that will help anyone’s immune system produce such antibodies.

Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise report released at Vienna AIDS conference
Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise report released at Vienna AIDS conference

Another important development occurred late last year, when a clinical trial in Thailand showed that a human vaccine is possible.  The vaccine candidate cut the risk of infection among participants, but the results were not high enough to go to market.

“Trials are expensive,” he says, “They cost roughly a hundred million dollars each.  And we need to do, put simply, a lot more trials if we’re going to get a vaccine.  And I think the optimism in the field right now has given the whole field kind of a new momentum.  I wouldn’t have said this a year ago.  But I think it’s clear we’re into a new era in this field.  And I must say it’s frustrating not to have the funds to actually move through that door pretty boldly.

The head of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise won’t predict when an effective AIDS vaccine will be available.  Even if a promising candidate were found today, a clinical trial would take at least three years.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid