New HIV Vaccine May Cut Infection Rates by a Third

It has been revealed that a HIV vaccine tested in Thailand that combined two previously unsuccessful vaccines may have cut infection rates by nearly one third, but the drug is far from ready for global distribution and its effects are limited to certain strains of the HIV virus.

The part U.S. funded  study, which involved more than 16,000 volunteers, half of which were given the vaccine and the other half a placebo, found that by combining two drugs ALVAC and AIDSVAX that are tailored for the B and E (more correctly called CRF A/E) sub-strains of HIV-1 (not sub-strain C which is predominant in Africa), they were able to cut infection rates by 31.2% – something which scientists were beginning to think might be impossible.

Strangely, neither vaccine that was used to make up this new preventative treatment had been able to cut infection rates when tried separately in the past, but this study, conducted by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health and led by researcher Supachai Reks-Gnarm, investigated the effects of the vaccines when working in tandem, a synergy that created a “prime boost” effect and has buoyed hopes that a full vaccine may not be out of reach after all: 

“This result is tantalisingly encouraging. The numbers are small and the difference may have been due to chance, but this finding is the first positive news in the Aids vaccine field for a decade,” Dr. Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet commented.

Indeed, the wider medical and scientific community have been quick to downplay these findings, with all quarters saying that the study needs to be urgently repeated and expanded to verify the effects of the new preventative drug. However, cautious optimism remains:

“Tests will have been done to verify that the difference is unlikely to have occurred by chance and I have no trouble believing the figures,” said Dr Adriano Boasso, an HIV vaccine expert at Imperial College London.

For a more in-depth explanation of how the two vaccines combined appear to have worked, please click here.

The BBC have also put up a Q&A on the vaccine to discuss the findings, which you can find here.

It is important to state that the vaccine is far from ready to go into global distribution, and whilst the results are promising, they are as yet limited, and even if proven successful, they may not be relevant to halting the AIDS epidemic entirely.

It is unlikely that in the short term a vaccine with just a 30% success rate would be given licensing approval. To put somewhat of a scale as to the work that needs to be done, the vaccine will need a minimum efficacy of 70% to be viable. Still, a start has been made on what was previously thought to be an unfathomable disease.

Watch this CBS report below:

Whilst hopes of a vaccine are brilliant news, it is a salient reminder that the US Congress has yet to re-authorize the Ryan White CARE Act which provides HIV/AIDS care and support to under privileged US citizens who suffer from  disease and who, because of a lack of insurance or full coverage, can not get access to life saving medications or palliative care without the funding and assistance programs Ryan White CARE provides.

People are becoming desperate, and a few days ago there were angry scenes at a White House hosted HIV/AIDS forum in D.C.

The deadline for reauthorization is September 30th and it is fast approaching. The Ryan White CARE Act is healthcare that is not debatable. Although Congress have pledged to reauthorize the act, urge them now to be steady in their commitment to this important, no, vital, health care fund.

Sign the Reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act petition now!

Read More on the Background of Ryan White CARE here.

If you would like to see a summary, or even the full text of the 2009 Ryan White CARE Act as it currently stands, please click here.

Care2 posts on similar topics:
GOP Health Plan is For the Dogs.

Memories Lost… Please Help…
Taxing Soft Drinks – a Sticky, Slippery Slope.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Andres.


Dominic C.
Dominic C8 years ago

Sex education can only do so much. Abstaining from sex is for the do not think that every human individual is prep with "thou shall holy attitude..." Thats for the religious and even then they have had problems as well! A vaccine is still a lesser evil then side effects as long as there is cure.

Fay T.
Fay T8 years ago

With every vaccine come dangerous side effects. All you have to do is look at what they are made from.
How about education and responsible sex practices. How about criminal charges to those that intentionally infect others. How about some common sense!

Pat C.
Pat C8 years ago

The biomedical industry is fraught with promising new drugs that inevitably are found to be useless. The reason is these new drugs are tested on other animal species whose physiologies are different from not just each other but our own as well. Only 1 in every 5,000 to 10,000 drugs tested in other animals will actually make it to the first of three phases of human clinical trials. Only 8% of the drugs that do make it to the first phase of human clinical trials will move on to phase two. By phase three about 50% of the original 8% will be found useless. So the chance of finding a new drug in clinical trials that actually works for humans is 4%. As these are not very good odds don't be fooled by the promises that are seen almost daily in the media for new "cures." Testing on other animal species to find cures for our own is unscientific and fraudulant, not to mention very cruel. It is "hit & miss" at best and should be banned immediately.

Ben Carney
Ben Carney8 years ago

I'm very leery when anyone says that a vaccine shows promise. The real evidence about vaccines shows that nearly every single one of them is loaded with toxic levels of mercury. Not to mention the fact that the real evidence not bought and paid for by the pharmaceutical industry shows that vaccines do not work. Vaccines do not prevent or cure illness but the exact opposite they have a higher incidence rate of making people sick with the very thing they are trying to prevent.

Everyone likes to point to the high disease rates in third world countries vs developed countries as evidence why vaccines work. But no one ever seems to point out the lack of sanitary conditions in third world countries vs developed countries. How about the access to clean water, clean food, food in general, clean living quarters, a place to take a bath or shower with clean water and the like. All of those factors are more to blame for the high disease rates in third world countries then in developed countries.