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Sunday 24th June 2018

Time to shift emphasis in AIDS fight

11th May 2008

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, US chief of medicine Homayoon Khanlou and Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, argue it is time to pull the plug on the search for an AIDS vaccine.


Bland comment that "AIDS vaccine development is hard" is not a credible response to criticism of the ballooning US budget for AIDS vaccine research and the meagre results it has produced.

Each year, $1bn of public funding is spent on the vaccine quest while millions of people across the world lack access to the life-saving treatment – antiretroviral medication – developed a dozen years ago.

With 25 years of AIDS vaccine failures, to have more human clinical research defies commonsense. There is no science to support any call for extra money to be spent in this area.

The focus must shift to breaking the chain of infection – adopting a pre-and/or post exposure prophylaxis treatment to the 33 million who currently carry the virus would be a highly cost-effective way to prevent further spread.

There is evidence that patients with undetectable viral loads, achieved through antiretroviral treatment, have a much lower transmission rate, though these drugs are only available to a small fraction of the people that need them.

But "what might a nearly $1bn annual investment in the worldwide scale-up of antiretroviral treatment buy in terms of transmissions prevented"?

With no evidence to date that there will ever be an AIDS vaccine, resources should be redeployed to deliver antiretroviral medications to those who need it.

Now is the time to "pull the plug on US public funding for HIV vaccine research".


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