The hunt for an HIV/AIDS vaccine has been ongoing for about as long as we have known that HIV, a retrovirus, causes the syndrome of conditions collectively known as AIDS. There was some logical evidence that inducing protective immunity against this virus should be possible – the existence of some people who were apparently immune from the disorder, others that progressed slowly – but despite billions invested to date, the trials of lead candidate vaccines have all failed.

Yesterday, however, researchers have announced the qualified success of an HIV trial conducted over 6 years in Thailand. The vaccine, known as RV 144 – a combination of two vaccines which were deemed failures when administered on their own – appears to have provided some protection – it reduced the infection rate by about one third. One third reduction is obviously far from the kind of protection we are more accustomed to with other vaccines, but it is a start. These findings represent more of a proof of concept – HIV vaccination is possible – than a breakthroughs that will lead to commercial production of a vaccine anytime soon. Lots of questions remain – like why these vaccines failed on their own but seemed to work together – but it is a start.

You can read more about the trial from IAVI here.

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3 Responses to “As it turns out, HIV vaccination might be possible afterall”

  1. Brendan says:

    As someone typically more focused on economics than health, I have this question:
    Even if the effectiveness rate of this vaccine is far less than what is normal for typical vaccine implementation, would it still make sense in some Southern African countries to do it, given the 15-25% incidence and massive socioeconomic cost?
    B

  2. Karen Grepin says:

    Brendan,

    I think that is a great question.

    I think it will all come down to how much are we willing to pay for given benefits. Already, the cost effectiveness of many interventions against HIV are not particularly favorable, so my guess is relative to things we already invest in, than it likely would for many regions. I think many would advocate for it on these grounds.

    But whether this would justify its development – potentially at the cost of investing in the development of a more effective vaccine – is hard to say at this point. And, relative to other health interventions that are currently underfunded it also raises some doubt.

    Only time will tell and as we all know, rarely does it come down to just economics. This vaccine is still so far from reality, that it is hard to say how things will play out.

    Karen

  3. Brendan says:

    You're certainly right to pointout that current decisions are not made on purely economic grounds. I had also neglected develpoment cost. Interesting, thanks,
    B

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