November 25, 2009
|Nobel Prize winner Dr. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, Institute Pasteur, Paris, discusses the need for more funding for therapeutic vaccine research.|
In honor of World AIDS Day, The AIDS Institute (TAI), one of the nation's leading advocacy organizations for support of people with HIV/AIDS and their providers, joined Nobel Laureate Dr. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, in calling for government leaders, patient advocates and the research community to expand therapeutic HIV vaccine research.
TAI believes with more research funding, biotechnology treatments such as therapeutic vaccines could lead to dramatic improvements in care for the estimated 33.4 million people living with HIV.
"This kind of research needs a lot of money," said Dr. Barre-Sinoussi. "For basic research, but also for the trial to see if it's working or not. We need to have more funding for new scientists, young scientists that would like to come to us with innovative, new, creative ideas. This is the future."
The therapeutic HIV vaccines under investigation are designed to supplement or possibly to provide an alternative to current antiretroviral "cocktail" treatments for HIV. Researchers hope that one day therapeutic vaccines can be given to already infected individuals to help fight the disease by adjusting their immune response.
TAI Executive Director Michael Ruppal said expanded HIV vaccine funding for biotechnology research is crucial for scientists so they can conduct more trials and determine whether certain therapeutics are working.
"People with HIV are only estimated to survive 24 years after diagnosis," he said. "The only way that number will significantly change is with more research funding, which will lead to new therapeutic trials. These trials will help us determine whether the vaccines are working, and in return, help achieve our goal of improved HIV care."
Leading AIDS treatment activist David Miller, a board member of TAI and member of the Cornell Adult AIDS Clinical Trial Group's Community Advisory Board, explained why the government and researchers need to invest more resources into HIV therapeutic vaccines.
"Advancing therapeutic vaccine research now will save lives. It's as simple as that," Miller said. "We know that data from therapeutic vaccine research clearly indicates significant survival benefits and a decrease in disease progression. For the growing number of patients facing drug resistance to HAART, therapeutic vaccines may be our best hope. We need to make this the highest priority of research at the NIH and at leading vaccine research institutions. A growing number of treatment activists who have seen compelling data believe these vaccines can change the current course of the AIDS crisis."
How to Advocate for Therapeutic Funding: You can help the cause by visiting www.theaidsinstitute.org to learn more, find local services, volunteer and contribute.
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About HIV/AIDS: When HIV infects a person, the cells it infects most often are CD4 cells, which are a type of white blood cell. The genetic code of the virus becomes part of the cells. When CD4 cells multiply to fight an infection, they also make more copies of HIV.
More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981. By the end of 2007, women accounted for 50% of all adults living with HIV worldwide, and for 59% is sub-Saharan Africa. Africa has 11.6 million AIDS orphans. In developing and transitional countries, 9.7 million people are in immediate need of life-saving AIDS drugs; of these, only 2.99 (31%) are receiving the drugs.
About Therapeutic Vaccines: Biotechnology researchers conducted the first therapeutic vaccine trial in AIDS patients in 1983. Less than 50 conventional trials have been carried out since then. Results have consistently shown that immune responses were evident as a result of vaccination. Although clinical improvements have rarely been observed, some recent studies have shown patient benefit.
About the AIDS Institute: The AIDS Institute promotes action for social change through public policy research, advocacy, and education. TAI began as a grassroots community advocacy effort in the mid 1980s. In 1992, this advocacy network became incorporated as Florida AIDS Action, a nonprofit organization. Over the years, TAI expanded its vision to become a leading national public policy research, advocacy, and education organization with offices in Tampa, and Washington, DC. Affiliated with the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine at the University of South Florida, College of Medicine, The AIDS Institute remains focused on HIV/AIDS while incorporating work on related healthcare issues such as Hepatitis, as well as other infectious and chronic diseases.
Note to Journalists: Dr. Barre-Sinoussi, Professor and Director, Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit, Virology Department, Institute Pasteur, Paris, and recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her work in identifying HIV as the cause of AIDS, discusses the need for more funding in a recent video interview exclusive to TAI.
Interviews with researchers pursuing therapeutic vaccines can be arranged through contacts.