U.S. Should Fund HIV/AIDS Strategies ‘That Work,’ Not ‘Expensive Vaccine Research,’ Opinion Piece Says
The U.S. should invest in proven HIV/AIDS treatment, testing and prevention strategies and not in "expensive vaccine research that over 20 years has yielded little of promise other than discovering how not to make an AIDS vaccine," Homayoon Khanlou and Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation write in a Baltimore Sun opinion piece.
According to the writers, the "fact remains" that after 20 years of research, a "vaccine against a retrovirus, the family of viruses HIV belongs to, has never been successfully developed." They add that it is "highly unlikely that there will be an AIDS vaccine -- certainly not by any current definition of the word." Despite "this record of failure," the U.S. has more than doubled its budget for HIV/AIDS vaccine research from $327 million in 2000 to $854 million in 2006, according to the authors. "Meanwhile, funding for HIV/AIDS care in the U.S. has flatlined," and "millions are dying" worldwide because they lack access to effective prevention, treatment and testing strategies, the authors write. It is "time to stop the waste" and end government funding for HIV/AIDS vaccine research, they write, adding that "much could be achieved" if funds "being poured" into vaccine research were applied to other successful strategies. For example, routine HIV testing is "still far from reality in the U.S. or abroad," the authors write, adding that allocating $1 billion to the "rapid scale-up of HIV testing worldwide would likely prevent millions of new infections." In addition, providing universal access to treatment would "make the most significant contribution to" a decrease in AIDS-related deaths and in the spread of HIV worldwide, according to the authors.
"Suspending U.S. funding for an HIV vaccine and investing in strategies that save lives and stop new infections is the wisest and most effective use of limited public resources," the authors write, concluding, "And with thousands of lives lost daily because people around the world lack access to proven, effective and relatively inexpensive prevention and treatment options, it is also the only moral choice" (Khanlou/Weinstein, Baltimore Sun, 3/23).