WWR: AIDS Vaccine IS “Essential Tool” for HIV-Free Generation

By Dr. Jeffrey Safrit | May 18, 2012

While there is much excitement about a combination prevention strategy to end new HIV infections – including voluntary medical male circumcision and antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission and infection between adult partners – a vaccine is still a critical component of fighting the epidemic.

An AIDS vaccine would have particular importance to children. It could protect infants from HIV infection through breastfeeding, one of the major modes of transmission in sub-Saharan Africa.

It could also set the stage for lifetime immunity, and be easily administered in resource-poor countries where infrastructure to deliver and administer vaccines is present.

In the Huffington Post, Mitchell Warren (AVAC) answers the question of how we should be advocating for a vaccine –as an important but complementary tool:
“For years, AIDS vaccine advocates have reminded the world that vaccines are the most powerful public health tools on the planet. This is still true. At the same time, the current, hopeful context for beginning to end AIDS using available tools places an imperative on AIDS vaccine advocates. We must shape an agenda that is contextual and bridge-building. The best advocacy will move away from the rhetoric of ‘the best hope’ or ‘the only tool’ for ending the epidemic. It will situate an AIDS vaccine within the scale-up of combination prevention.”

In a National Institutes of Health statement, Dr. Anthony Fauci (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH) discussed recent progress in AIDS vaccine research:

"All of these advances reinforce our confidence that one day we will succeed at creating a safe, highly effective vaccine to prevent HIV infection. To contain and ultimately halt the HIV/AIDS pandemic, even the most effective vaccine must be part of a combination of medical and behavioral HIV prevention tools…Vaccines historically have been the single most important tool for controlling epidemics. With an ongoing commitment to HIV vaccine research, we have the potential to radically change the trajectory of the HIV/AIDS pandemic."

And in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, Michel Sidibe (UNAIDS), Chidi Nweneka (African AIDS Vaccine Partnership) and Margaret McGlynn (International AIDS Vaccine Initiative) discussed why – despite recent prevention advances – an AIDS vaccine can and must be developed:

“Dramatic advances have been made in research into potent antibodies that are effective against a range of strains of HIV and in exploring systems, called vectors, for delivering a long-lasting, effective vaccine into the human system. There is now consensus in the field that the discovery of an AIDS vaccine is a matter of when, not if…The global efforts to improve access to HIV testing, treatment and prevention services are imperative and non-negotiable. We know that an HIV vaccine would be the best tool for finally ending AIDS. We are still years from an AIDS vaccine, but we now know that it can and must be done.”

To learn more about HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, click here.
 
Dr. Jeffrey Safrit is the Foundation’s Director of Clinical and Basic Research in Los Angeles.