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HIV Vaccine Eludes Experts


HOPE prevailed at the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok as it became clear that an increasing number of AIDS patients would have the opportunity to live longer, and the number would grow even bigger in future.

Drug prices have come down, treatment has become simpler and more governments are willing to invest money into treating AIDS patients. For instance, the Uganda Government has initiated a programme that will eventually provide free AIDS treatment to patients who need it.

However, vaccine advocates have warned that this optimism could turn attention away from the ultimate goal of eradicating AIDS, yet these drugs only prolong life.

More than 14 million people globally, including over 70,000 in Uganda, became infected with HIV in 2003 as the world witnessed the 22nd year of AIDS without a vaccine.

While significant progress has been made towards treatment, so far there is no hope of a vaccine within the next four years. After so many years of AIDS, only one vaccine has gone through the complete process of testing, and it proved ineffective. No other vaccine is expected to complete the testing process until late 2007 or early 2008. It might succeed or fail.

Altogether, more than 30 vaccines are being tested in 19 countries, but most of them are in the very early stages. One of them is being tested in Uganda, and results of the first phase are expected later this year.

Dr. Seth Berkley, president of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), says this is bad news because the world needs an HIV vaccine more than anything else. Only a vaccine can end the epidemic.

All other efforts can only slow it down, he said. The National Political Commissar, Dr. Cryspus Kiyonga, says for too long, the AIDS epidemic received little attention in developed countries because it affects mostly the Third World. "We have had many epidemics in the past but none of them has lasted as long as AIDS without a vaccine.

Recently, we had a SARS epidemic and I hear that soon we may have a vaccine. Why are we not getting a vaccine for AIDS?" he wondered. Berkley says technically it is possible to get an AIDS vaccine.

The reason the world still has no vaccine is that people have not tried hard enough. For instance all over the world a total of $650 million is spent on efforts to develop an AIDS vaccine.

A hundred times more than this amount is spent on research and development of other health products.

Kiyonga says developing countries will need to work closely with the West to develop and test potential AIDS vaccines.

"There are many subtypes of HIV and if we do not participate it is possible that a vaccine may be developed in the North that doesnt work in the South," he said.

IAVI is spearheading a campaign to get developed countries put more money into vaccine research.

So far, all parties are getting more committed, with Uganda leading the way in developing countries thanks to President Yoweri Museveni's policy of an open approach to the control of the scourge.

However, there is still no vaccine yet in sight. An AIDS vaccine is scientifically possible. We shall not succeed unless we make it happen, Berkley said.


All articles are republished on AEGIS by permission. Material may not be redistributed, posted to any other location, published or used for broadcast without written authorization from Managing Director/Editor-in-chief, The New Vision, P.O. Box 9815, Kampala - Uganda, Tel/fax: 256-41-235221, E-mail: 

Information in this article was accurate in July 19, 2004. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.