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Commentary & Opinion

Experimental HIV Vaccines Likely Will Offer Limited Immunity, Might Delay Onset of AIDS, Commentary Says

May 18, 2007

Many of the most promising experimental HIV vaccines in development will offer only limited immunity against the virus but might delay the onset of AIDS, Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Margaret Johnston of NIAID write in a New England Journal of Medicine commentary, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The commentary was published ahead of HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, which is May 18.

Although the first generation of HIV vaccines likely will not prevent HIV infection, they might protect HIV-positive people's immune systems from the "worst ravages" of the disease and delay the onset of AIDS, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. The vaccines also are potential tools for public health authorities trying to contain the HIV/AIDS pandemic because vaccines can potentially reduce viral loads in HIV-positive people, therefore reducing their ability to transmit the virus to others (Daly, AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/16).

According to studies of HIV in humans and animal models, experimental vaccines that induce strong responses from CD4+ T cells "in the absence of broadly neutralizing antibodies may prove beneficial even if infection is not completely prevented," Fauci and Johnston write. They add that the vaccines might "prevent the early and massive destruction of memory CD4+ T cells that help control infection and prolong disease-free survival." In addition, "secondary transmission may also be reduced if the vaccine helps to control viral replication," the authors write (Johnston/Fauci, NEJM, 5/17).

According to Fauci and Johnston, some animal studies indicate peak viral loads were reduced by a factor of 10 in primates that were inoculated with these types of vaccines and then infected with the simian counterpart of HIV. The inoculations also "dramatically" slowed the progression of the disease in many animals, the authors write. They add that although it is not clear when the first vaccines will be available, Phase I and II clinical trials are "well into their execution" and large "numbers of people are being vaccinated." While these new vaccines likely will offer only limited immunity, there is "optimism that even a less-than-perfect vaccine could benefit both individual recipients and the at-risk community," Fauci and Johnston write AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/16).

Online The commentary is available online.

Online The San Francisco Chronicle on Friday also ran an opinion piece by Fauci and Johnston on experimental HIV vaccines. The opinion piece is available online.

Back to other news for May 2007

Reprinted with permission from You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2007 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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