AIDS Vaccine Conference Delegates Call for Increased Financial, Political Commitment for Vaccine Development
Delegates at the opening ceremony of the AIDS VACCINE '04 conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday called for increased financial and political commitment to develop an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine, saying that $12 billion to $18 billion is needed over the next decade for research and clinical trials, Reuters reports. Approximately 800 delegates are attending the conference, which is organized by the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois Lausanne and the EuroVacc Foundation, according to Reuters (Reuters, 8/30). Although the development of antiretroviral drugs has helped extend the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS, only a "safe and effective vaccine will contain the pandemic," according to a EuroVacc release. "Due to an alarming increase in the number of HIV infections, whereby it is anticipated that an additional 45 million new infections will occur by 2010, there is an urgent need for a preventive vaccine to end the HIV pandemic both in the developing and in the developed world," conference Chair Dr. Giuseppe Pantaleo said. However, the "complexity" of developing an HIV/AIDS vaccine "remains an enormous scientific, clinical, financial, logistical, organizational and manufacturing challenge," according to the release. "Despite many important advances in HIV research, a safe and effective HIV vaccine has eluded our grasp," National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said (EuroVacc release, 8/30). Conference delegates also said that vaccine research should be better organized and more collaborative so that more clinical trials can reach the Phase III stage of testing (Reuters, 8/30).
A separate meeting on HIV/AIDS, gender, age and race taking place at the conference and organized by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS called for increased involvement of women and adolescents in HIV/AIDS vaccine clinical trials, according to a UNAIDS release. "We have identified measures aimed at rectifying the injustice stemming from the frequent exclusion or low participation of women and adolescents in HIV vaccine clinical trials," Dr. Ruth Macklin, meeting co-chair and bioethics professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said, adding, "Clinical trial enrollment needs to be more inclusive, so the benefits of research are more fairly distributed" (UNAIDS release, 8/31). Approximately 48% of adults living with HIV/AIDS worldwide are women, and 57% of people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are women (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/14). Young women and girls ages 15 to 24 comprise 62% of young people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries, according to a UNAIDS release. When exposed to HIV, women are twice as likely to become infected as men, and girls and young women in areas of sub-Saharan Africa are six times more likely to become infected as men of the same age, according to the release. "Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection for biological, social and economic reasons," Dr. Catherine Hankins, chief scientific adviser for UNAIDS, said. Women and adolescents often are not involved in clinical vaccine trials because of their lack of empowerment, education and independent decision-making abilities; social isolation; discrimination; pregnancy and the potential effects experimental medications can have on a fetus; stigma; enrollment criteria; and informed consent and confidentiality issues associated with adolescent participants, according to the release.
Current Vaccine Trials
There are more than 30 HIV vaccines currently being tested in human clinical trials in 19 countries. The major obstacles to the development of a vaccine are primarily scientific and economic because of the "lack of incentive by the private sector to engage in product development," according to a UNAIDS release. However, "new momentum" has been created by the endorsement of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise by the Group of Eight countries (UNAIDS release, 8/31). G8 officials from the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia in June announced the formation of a Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise program to speed the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine and streamline research and development efforts (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/9).