Use of Antiretrovirals as ‘Alternative’ to HIV/AIDS Vaccine ‘Goes Unchampioned,’ Opinion Piece Says
The HIV/AIDS vaccine "establishment continues its taxpayer-funded, repeatedly unsuccessful search for a preventive AIDS vaccine while an alternative many have seen work on multiple levels -- successful antiretroviral treatment as both treatment and prevention -- goes unchampioned," AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein writes in a Los Angles Times opinion piece in response to a recent Times editorial. The Times editorial "took issue" with AHF's position "without fully understanding it," Weinstein writes. He adds that the group's position is that in "light of over 20 years of failed AIDS vaccine research on which billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money have been spent, [AHF believes] it is simply unconscionable for the U.S. government to continue such wasteful funding while millions worldwide die for want of access to the AIDS research breakthrough that occurred more than 10 years ago -- lifesaving antiretroviral treatment."
While "AIDS vaccine candidates repeatedly fail," a "consensus continues to build that successful antiretroviral treatment offers a vaccine-like effect -- rendering most HIV-positive people noninfectious," Weinstein writes, adding, "This treatment offers a far more enduring benefit than anything that AIDS vaccine research has or will offer." More than 33 million "people worldwide continue to live with and die from HIV/AIDS," Weinstein writes, adding that about two million people "in the developing world have access to the treatment that we know works to save lives" and "reduces the likelihood of transmission." Antiretroviral treatment costs "as little as $300 per patient per year in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world," according to Weinstein, who adds that the "$700 million or so the U.S. currently spends annually on fruitless AIDS vaccine research could save an additional 2.3 million lives around the world each year."
AHF "believes it is time to pull the plug on U.S. taxpayer financing of the search for a vaccine and leave it to private donors to back what has been and continues to appear to be a fruitless goal," Weinstein writes. He concludes that to "continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a government-funded search for an AIDS vaccine in the vain hope of success someday while millions worldwide suffer and die is simply unacceptable when other currently available strategies offer practical and effective alternatives" (Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, 4/4).