Vaccine Needed To Eliminate HIV/AIDS, Opinion Piece Says
Although campaigns to prevent the spread of HIV are "critical and need more attention," a vaccine is needed to effectively "protect society as a whole and eliminate" HIV/AIDS, Seth Berkley, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece.
According to Berkley, prevention campaigns -- including those that promote abstinence, faithfulness to one partner, circumcision, condom use and the provision of clean needles -- are necessary, but "given human nature and the cultural and economic realities in the societies hit hardest by AIDS, these programs can do only so much." Berkley writes that to eliminate HIV/AIDS, "we need a much more powerful weapon" -- a vaccine -- because no "major viral epidemic has been defeated without one." He adds that a vaccine "holds the hope of eliminating, and not just curbing," the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Although there were "high hopes" for Merck's experimental HIV vaccine, the trials ultimately were canceled, Berkley writes, adding that "more study is needed to find out why it failed and what implications that may have for the 30 or so experimental AIDS vaccines in trials." According to Berkley, researchers also should "build on ... insights" -- such as why a small number of HIV-positive people never progress to AIDS or why vaccines can protect nonhuman primates from infection with SIV -- adding, "We can't afford the alternative, in financial or human terms." Financing HIV/AIDS research is a "minimal investment, but it is one that will ultimately prove cost-effective," Berkley writes, concluding that a "preventive vaccine is the only intervention that could ultimately eliminate the need for all others" (Berkley, Washington Post, 12/18).