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Money's Not the Only Problem; Fears and Leadership Flaws Hinder the Search for an AIDS Vaccine
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Human immunodeficiency virus; HIV; Medical research; Books-titles -- Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine; Vaccines; Acquired immune deficiency syndrome; AIDS
Date: Feb 20, 2001
Start Page: T.07

Echoing Jonas Salk, creator of the polio vaccine and a key figure in the AIDS vaccine effort before his death in 1995, [Jon Cohen] argues that in the face of a deadly epidemic like AIDS, scientists must be pragmatic. Rather than focusing on traditional basic research aimed at trying to thoroughly understand HIV -- which is where most of the millions already spent on AIDS research has gone -- Cohen says the objective should be to find a vaccine that works even if the reasons it works are unclear -- and even if it isn't 100 percent effective.

To date, some 30 potential AIDS vaccines have been tested on more than 6,000 uninfected volunteers, mainly in the United States and Thailand. Most of these trials have been early stage efforts to test safety and see whether the products actually stimulate an immune response that might be useful against HIV. Initial results are due later this year on the large-scale trials of a vaccine made by the U.S. biotechnology company VaxGen, the only AIDS vaccine so far to make it to the third and final stage of testing.

There were 4,177 AIDS cases in the United States when then- Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler announced in 1984 that HIV had been discovered and there would be an AIDS vaccine within two years. Nearly 439,000 Americans have died from AIDS since the epidemic was first noted two decades ago.

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