AIDS Healthcare Foundation Reports Poor AIDS Vaccine Clinical Trial Results Call for Reassessment of Overall Vaccine Development Strategies

LOS ANGELES -- Just three weeks after President Bush's groundbreaking State of the Union commitment to prevent 7 million new HIV infections in Africa and the developing world and treat 2 million people with AIDS in poor countries with life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ARV), California's VaxGen Corporation today released results of a three-year clinical trial of its AIDSVax AIDS vaccine.

According to AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the trial, involving more than 5,400 individuals, showed a disappointing overall HIV prevention rate of 3.8 percent. Among the nearly 500 Blacks and Asians who participated in the study, the vaccine's efficacy rate was 66 percent, a rate that the AHF considers statistically doubtful.

"While the results among the small number of Black and Asian participants in the study are perhaps encouraging and could prove beneficial in our understanding of the how the virus works among different populations and ethnic groups, the disappointing overall results, a mere 3.8% vaccine efficacy rate -- far lower than VaxGen's targeted 30 percent rate -- require that we reassess our strategy of vaccine development," said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation president. "Clearly work should continue where the trial showed promise, but the general results suggest that 20 years into this pandemic we really need to stop and take a hard look at this issue."

"To me, it looks now very unlikely we will ever have a protective vaccine against HIV," said Charles Farthing, MD, AIDS Healthcare Foundation's chief of medicine. "Even the live attenuated vaccines which looked the most hopeful, and are halted in development because of safety concerns, may not be protective when one considers recent reports of people with HIV getting super-infected with a second strain and individuals getting infected despite a good specific CD8 cell mediated T cell immune response against the very strain they eventually got infected with. I now feel strongly that more resources should be put into providing anti-retroviral therapy -- which we know works and works well -- for people in resource-poor settings than into vaccine research."

AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the U.S.'s largest specialized provider of HIV/AIDS medical care. AHF serves thousands of patients in California, New York and Florida regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

Source: AIDS Healthcare Foundation