Non-Vaccine Treatment, Prevention Methods Should Be Developed To Curb Spread of HIV, Opinion Pieces SayUSA Today on Wednesday published two opinion pieces in response to an article the newspaper published pn Sept. 29 examining the search for an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine (USA Today, 10/6). Currently, almost two dozen prototype HIV vaccines are being tested in humans, and 11 of the vaccines are being tested through the U.S. government-sponsored HIV Vaccine Trials Network. But so far, researchers have not found any combination of HIV genes or proteins that generates immune responses potent enough to protect an individual from infection. Most HIV/AIDS vaccines currently in development do not guard against initial infection but aim to manage the virus and prolong health once an individual is infected (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/29). Summaries of the opinion pieces appear below:
- John Curd: The "dire need and the relative lack of progress" in development of a successful HIV/AIDS vaccine means that "innovative, alternative approaches" need to be explored to prevent HIV, Curd, president and chief medical officer at the pharmaceutical company Novacea, writes in a USA Today opinion piece. Although vaccine research has been carried out for more than 20 years, there has been a "relative lack of success" in the field, according to Curd, who adds that "we need to aggressively pursue, in parallel, non-vaccine alternatives." However, these "alternative" prevention and treatment methods "may not get funding because most efforts are focused on classical vaccine approaches, with the underlying assumption that sooner or later one will work," Curd writes, concluding, "This may not happen. ... I urge the media to bring more attention to these alternatives and thereby assist in raising the funds necessary to turn novel ideas into hope for the millions afflicted and suffering globally from HIV/AIDS" (Curd, USA Today, 10/6).
- Mark Mitchnick: Although it is "no surprise that an HIV vaccine will be extremely difficult to develop and is still a ways away," it is "surprising" that some are "deterred by the magnitude of the challenge and question the value of funding an effort aimed at saving tens of millions of lives," Mitchnick, director of research and development at the International Partnership for Microbicides, writes in a USA Today opinion piece. Pandemics, such as HIV/AIDS, are "only stopped through active interventions," including condom promotion, behavioral change and microbicides -- vaginal products, such as gels or creams, that can "significantly" curb the spread of HIV -- according to Mitchnick. Microbicides "offer a chance to significantly impact" the pandemic because they "provide protection of those at greatest risk: women in developing countries," Mitchnick writes, adding that microbicides are "female-controlled and thus offer options not currently available." Fighting HIV/AIDS "in the long term will require a comprehensive, multipronged strategy," Mitchnick writes, concluding, "Treatment needs to be expanded, education provided and microbicides and vaccines developed" (Mitchnick, USA Today, 10/6).