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Experts Say a Global Coordinated Research Effort is Needed for AIDS Vaccine

HIV/AIDS researchers say they are optimistic that they will develop a vaccine for the deadly disease, although they say it will take at least another ten years.

Experts from several public health organizations testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reiterating the need for a coordinated global vaccine research effort.

The National Institute of Health's Dr. Anthony Fauci says the Institute alone will spend more than $600-million on AIDS vaccine research in 2006. "Prevention is paramount, because if you look at the numbers simple math will tell you that we have five-million new infections each year. And we aren't even beginning to see the end of it because we still haven't emphasized the potential new epicenters in Asian countries such as China, India and other countries where you have over one-billion people and just a small percentage increase in infections spells out in tens and tens of millions of new infections."

According to the United Nations AIDS Agency, 40-million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with five million new infections worldwide in one single year.

Dr. Seth Berkeley of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative says the reality is that few vaccines have even reached the testing stage. "To date, one vaccine in the world has been fully tested to see if it works. That's 24-years into the epidemic. Now science is tough, but a lot of that represents the lack of focused attention, finance, etc., so when people say, 'You know, this hasn't worked,' that's the fact."

More than two decades into the epidemic, Dr. Helene Gayle of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says a vaccine is still years away. "We do think it will be at least another decade to be able to get to the point where we have a safe and effective HIV vaccine, so we know we need to be in it for the long haul."

The experts underscored that funds spent on vaccination research could eventually reduce treatment costs - costs they say could potentially bankrupt developing countries.