Up to 950,000 Americans Living With HIV/AIDS; AIDS Cases, Deaths Remain Stable, CDC Says
The number of Americans diagnosed with HIV/AIDS increased by about 50,000 from 1998 to 2000, pushing the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States to between 850,000 and 950,000, according to Dr. Harold Jaffe, acting director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, Newsday reports. Jaffe announced the statistics at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, which is being held this week in Seattle. He stated that for the past three years, the proportion of HIV-positive people who die of AIDS-related causes each year has remained steady at 3%. He said that those deaths can be attributed to the fact that many HIV-positive people "are not accepting the health care system at all." Jaffe said, "We have reached a plateau in both AIDS cases and deaths in the United States. I think this is largely due to the remarkable number of people not coming in for [HIV] tests" (Garrett, Newsday, 2/25).
Gates, Carter Announce Africa Trip
In other conference news, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates announced that he will join former President Jimmy Carter on a trip to Africa next week to discuss the impact of HIV/AIDS on the continent, the Associated Press reports. Gates, his wife Melinda and his father William Gates Sr. will accompany Carter and his wife Rosalynn to Africa from March 6-12. The group will meet with heads of state, government ministers, health workers, faith-based organizations, volunteers, private businesses and HIV-positive individuals. During a speech at the conference yesterday, Gates "questioned" the United States' financial commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS in developing nations. "Particularly now as people are looking at the world as interconnected, we have to ask ourselves: Do we behave in a way in which we're sharing our largess, our good luck?" (Associated Press, 2/25).
U.S. HIV Vaccine Trials Postponed
The U.S. government announced yesterday at the conference that it has decided to postpone plans for a large-scale clinical trial of two HIV vaccines in the United States, although testing of the vaccines will continue as planned in Thailand, USA Today reports. The two vaccines awaiting testing are Aventis Pasteur's ALVAC and VaxGen's AIDSVAX. ALVAC is composed of HIV genes inside a weakened canarypox virus; it stimulates the immune system to kill cells infected with HIV. AIDSVAX is made from the protein coat of HIV and works by prompting the immune system to eradicate HIV before it enters human cells. Researchers hope that combining the two vaccines will produce a "one-two punch" that will kill HIV-infected cells and any virus that is floating in the blood. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the level of response to the ALVAC vaccine recorded in a smaller trial was "too low" for government researchers to "get any definitive answer from the proposed larger trial" as it is currently designed. He added that the Department of Defense will conduct the study in Thailand as previously planned but will transfer responsibility for the research to NIAID on Oct. 1. The Thai trial will involve nearly 16,000 people and will last five years (Sternberg, USA Today, 2/25).