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Vaccine versus Cure

May 11, 2011

Hi Dr. Frascino, I have been reading your columns and responses, and they provide not only valuable medical advice but also inspiration and encouragement. Thank you so much! We need more doctors like you!! I have been reading a lot about the race toward a cure and/or a vaccine. As someone who is HIV positive, I have decided that it is better to live a full life as possible, take care of myself and hope that a cure or vaccine would happen in my lifetime (I'm in my late 30s). It is this hope that keeps me from falling into the abyss sometimes. I am wondering, however, about the difference between a vaccine and a cure. Let's say a vaccine is discovered -- what would that mean for those of us who are already living with HIV? My understanding is that a vaccine would prevent a person from acquiring a disease but would not cure someone already infected -- is that correct? I'm worried that with all the focus on finding a vaccine, there is little or no funding in search of a cure... Would a vaccine help existing HIV positive folks? Thank you so much for your insights on this! Hopeful

Response from Dr. Frascino


Thanks for your kind comments.

Cure would certainly be everyone's first choice! Check out my three-part blog "The Search for a Cure Heats Up," which can be found on The Body's blog page. In that post I discuss recent developments and also the difference between a "functional cure" (control of infection) and total cure (eradication of the virus).

There are two major types of vaccines. "Preventative vaccines" would prevent an illness such as HIV. "Therapeutic vaccines" would be used as an immune-based therapy for those currently infected. Despite considerable research funding and multiple clinical trials for both types of vaccines, the results have been very disappointing so far. I discuss this in the blog as well.

Stay tuned to The Body. We'll keep you updated as the cure and/or vaccine stories evolve.

Be well.

Dr. Bob

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