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Sep 26
World's First Successful AIDS Vaccine Brings Hope
AIDS Society of India (ASI) has welcomed the outcome of the Thai AIDS Vaccine trial (RV 144) and said it is a time for celebration for the clinicians and researchers engaged in the field of HIV/AIDS as also those prone to contract HIV infection.

Describing it as the first successful trial after 95 failures globally, ASI said it is definitely a stepping stone for vaccine-based HIV prevention strategy.

However, ASI said it would like to caution people, both HIV infected and uninfected, as such events, while being news-worthy, have little practical benefits in the immediate future.

People are used to risk-taking behaviour under the false sense of security of the impending HIV vaccine, Dr I S Gilada, general secretary of ASI said.

ASI cautioned the public that unscrupulous quacks may take advantage (of reports on AIDS vaccine trial) and dupe gullible people as it happens after such media reports.

The RV 144 employed a two-pronged approach. It sought to create antibodies to attack HIV and also boosted the body's response to alert white blood cells.

Half of 16,395 study participants in the trials were given six doses of the vaccines in 2006 and half received placebos. All received condoms, counselling, regular HIV testing and treatment for any sexually transmitted diseases. Of the 8,197 volunteers who received vaccine, new infections occurred in 51 people.

Of the 8,198 participants who received placebo (dummy) shot, new infections occurred in 74.

Surprisingly, RV144 is combination of the two failed vaccines (Alvac-HIV and AIDSVAX )and has shown 31 per cent success rate at the end of three years.

ASI feels this is in consonance with other strategies in HIV prevention and treatment (as well as Tuberculosis treatment) where a combination works rather than an individual strategy/drug.

Conventionally there are two types of vaccines- preventive that helps prevent a particular infection in healthy persons on repeated exposures to virus or bacteria; other for Immunotherapy (treatment) for an infected person to prevent further harm.

Globally, about 95 AIDS vaccines have been tried for prevention and treatment ever since HIV that causes AIDS was isolated in 1984. It cost millions of dollars and were not successful.

"We have reasons to be optimistic about the vaccine though we need to continue our research pursuits, especially towards the India-specific vaccine, as like Africa, we mainly have HIV subtype C," Gilada said.

RV 144 is designed for HIV subtypes B/E (USA and Thailand). Earlier a Phase-I vaccine trial in India failed in 2008, when mysteriously, the already failed recombinant adeno-associated viral vector, rAAV, was tried in some 30 volunteers in Pune.

ASI will have a session on AIDS Vaccine at its 3rd National Conference on March 19-21, 2010 in Hyderabad where the scientists involved with the Thai Vaccine trial including Dr. Anthony Fauci will be attending.

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