Commentary & Opinion
HIV Vaccine Development Faces Several Scientific Obstacles, Fauci Says in Opinion Piece
April 1, 2009
Although it is a "very reasonable query" to wonder why the scientific community has not developed an HIV/AIDS vaccine, research on developing such a vaccine has faced many scientific obstacles, Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, writes in an MSNBC.com opinion piece. According to Fauci, scientists successfully have been able to develop vaccines for other diseases using a "proof of concept," which provides a "reasonably reliable" measure of the body's capacity to mount an effective immune response to an illness. Although the first attempts to develop an HIV vaccine followed this approach, these vaccines were ineffective because HIV "has never provided scientists with a proof of concept of predictable protection," Fauci writes. He continues, "Not a single individual is known to have spontaneously eradicated the virus," adding that for most people not taking antiretroviral drugs, HIV progression is "relentless, despite measurable, but apparently not completely adequate, HIV-specific immune responses."
Fauci writes that HIV vaccine development might never follow the path of earlier vaccines, and therefore "our efforts in HIV vaccinology must be part of a broader approach toward HIV prevention that includes the delivery of proven methods," including HIV testing, counseling, education, behavior change programs, condom distribution, drug and alcohol abuse prevention, needle-exchange programs, prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission and male circumcision. Furthermore, new interventions such as topical microbicide gels and pre-exposure prophylaxis are undergoing "advanced testing," Fauci writes. However, he continues that "the development of an HIV vaccine must remain at the top of the global health research agenda." He concludes, "The obstacles to success are scientific obstacles, and I am cautiously optimistic that we will overcome these obstacles with scientific solutions, so there is no longer a need to ask the question: 'Why do we not yet have an AIDS vaccine?'" (Fauci, MSNBC.com, 3/31).
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.