HIV Vaccine Is the Only Hope for a World Fighting AIDS

about AIDS

Several weeks ago, this column discussed the much-publicized offer by 50 AIDS researchers and treating physicians to be used as "human guinea pigs" in a live-virus HIV vaccine trial. Much of the scientific community views this as premature and foolhardy, as live-virus vaccine efforts are not yet at a stage to be productive. Last week the group was again in the news, as five of them insistently reiterated their offer.

One cannot help but admire the heartfelt impulse which drives them. First, President Clinton has identified an AIDS vaccine by the year 2007 as an imperative goal for our nation's scientific establishment. Second, these dedicated individuals recognize that the only hope for most of the world's nations in bringing the AIDS pandemic under control is a vaccine. In a Third World which spends less than a half-dollar per person annually on public health, the expensive therapies available to most HIV-infected people in the U.S. are just not in the picture.

In some parts of the world, the disease is spreading at disastrous rates. Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of India, Cambodia, and Thailand have epidemics which make ours look like child's play. Indeed, several nations face possible economic instability as the result of AIDS devastation being piled onto droughts and civil conflict.

Next week, an AIDS researcher proposes an intriguing alternative to the all-or-nothing view of vaccines.

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