News / Africa

Report Outlines Challenges and Opportunities in Finding AIDS Vaccine

Multimedia

Audio
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

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs