HIV/AIDS Vaccine Research Must Be ‘Top Priority,’ Opinion Piece Says
The research and development of a vaccine against HIV -- "the deadliest natural infectious disease in history" -- "must be the top priority" for the United States, Mark Jensen, a senior fellow at the University of Washington, where he helps direct the HIV Computational Biology Group, says in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer opinion piece. According to Jensen, the "new new economy" and recent efforts to protect against threats of bioterrorism "tempt legislators to divert existing AIDS funding" to other areas. However, it is "more important than ever that the United States maintain its leadership in HIV and AIDS research through public and private support, for the best hope of a cure and global stability," Jensen says. HIV/AIDS research has been a "scientific tour-de-force unparalleled since the space race of the '60s," he writes. Specifically, Jensen notes that antiretroviral drugs have made HIV/AIDS "a chronic, but manageable disease -- if mainly in the developed world -- and have led to novel therapies for other viral diseases." However, "these advances have led to an unjustified complacency toward AIDS and AIDS research," Jensen says, adding that in the "face of our drug arsenal," HIV "remains vigilant," with drug-resistant strains spreading throughout the United States and Europe. According to Jensen, new HIV drugs are being developed "constantly," but they are "always expensive and the virus has only so many weak spots" to target. Jensen says that efforts to provide generic HIV/AIDS treatments to developing nations "must continue," but attention must also be paid to the "growing risk that these will meet a beachhead of an established, resistant epidemic." Jensen concludes, "Our foremost responsibility to the future remains to subdue the greatest harm for the good of the greatest number" through an HIV/AIDS vaccine (Jensen, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.