AIDS trials hold hope for vaccine

Helen Palmer Feb 20, 2007


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: There are effective drugs to treat AIDS, but that’s not the case when it comes to vaccines. But researchers are excited about some new clinical trials. As Helen Palmer reports from the Health Desk at WGBH, they think there’s a real chance of a successful vaccine . . . just not right away.

HELEN PALMER: There are about nine different vaccines in trials.

Most advanced is Merck’s therapy, being tested in thousands of people in South Africa and the Caribbean.

Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says it’s more effective than any previous AIDS vaccine candidate.

ANTHONY FAUCI: The hope is not necessarily that this will prevent infection, but more that it will prevent any progression of disease if someone does get infected.

Merck has enlisted prostitutes in the Dominican Republic for this clinical trial.

Researchers pay them $30 to make up for what they lose when they visit the clinic. The women also get cosmetics to encourage them to stick with the trial.

As many as 12 percent of prostitutes in Dominica have AIDS. Fauci says he hopes this vaccine might help reduce the numbers infected — though he warns it won’t be on the shelves this year.

In Boston, I’m Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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