Newspapers Publish Opinion Piece, Letter to Editor Responding to Suggestions on Future of HIV Vaccine Research
Two newspapers recently published an opinion piece and a letter to the editor in response to recent suggestions on the future of HIV vaccine research. Homayoon Khanlou and Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in a March 23 Baltimore Sun opinion piece wrote that 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" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/25). The Los Angeles Times in an April 1 editorial said that NIH officials during a conference last month were "right to say that the best future for an AIDS vaccine lies in the laboratory and in narrower trials that can point to the most promising paths while they add to our knowledge of the disease" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/1). Summaries appear below.
- Mark Mulligan et al., Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "History teaches that it is wrong to take an either/or approach to the provision of health care services and vaccine research," and therefore HIV vaccine research "must not be cut," Mulligan, executive director of the Hope Clinic at the Emory Vaccine Center, and colleagues at Emory write in an opinion piece. The authors add that they "disagree" with Khanlou and Weinstein's suggestion that the "best way to fight AIDS is to end government funding for HIV vaccine research" and redirect the funds to prevention, testing and treatment programs. Vaccine research is a "time-consuming process of trial and error, hypothesis generation and testing, refinement and retesting" that historically has taken "decades" to produce results, the authors write, concluding that "[p]ersistence, sustained scientific effort and increased collaboration will drive the quest for an HIV vaccine forward -- just as they did for the polio vaccine" (Mulligan et al., Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/10).
- Alan Bernstein, Los Angeles Times: Although the Times correctly said that the "best future" for HIV vaccine research is in "the laboratory and in narrower trials," the vaccine research community "should look beyond large vaccine candidate studies and ensure that human trials remain an integral part of the search for a safe and effective HIV vaccine," Bernstein, executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, writes in a Times letter to the editor. Bernstein writes that vaccine research "has been hampered" by researchers' "inability to accurately gauge a candidate's potential until it enters large-scale trials," adding that a "key goal should be to identify biological indicators that provide early signals of a vaccine's ability to prevent HIV infection." Bernstein adds that to "accomplish this goal," the research community must "dramatically increase basic research" (Bernstein, Los Angeles Times, 4/7).