The first ever phase III trial of an AIDS vaccine failed to meet infection prevention rates required for approval, it was announced earlier this week. ASHM president Andrew Grulich announced that the result was extremely disappointing and reiterated that using condoms and clean needles was still the safest way of preventing HIV transmission. We cannot risk throwing years of successful preventative education campaigns for vaccines which are unlikely to work. However, it is important that future HIV vaccine research continue and we await with great interest the results of the Australian vaccine trial about to get under way in Sydney, Grulich said. AIDSVAX was designed to provoke the immune system to create antibodies that would destroy a crucial protein within HIV. The vaccine was designed to elicit antibodies for two strains of HIV subtype B, the most common type found in North America, Europe and Australia. VaxGen, the US company that created AIDSVAX, reported, however, that the vaccine created lower infection rates among African-American and Asian participants. This report has aroused scepticism among AIDS organisations, with Ana Oliveira, executive director of the US Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), stating in a press release, VaxGen has not proven that this vaccine is effective among African-Americans or Asians -¦ GMHC has concerns that VaxGen’s interpretation of its results will -¦ provide false hopes in Africa and Asia. A vaccine currently in development by an Australian HIV Vaccine Consortium is due to enter human safety trials in Sydney later this year. This vaccine targets a different element of the immune system than AIDSVAX. The results of a Thailand-based AIDSVAX trial, which targets strains prevalent in SouthEast Asia, are due for release later this year.

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