Progress on a HIV Vaccine

Donald G. McNeil, Jr. writes in The New York Times that a new vaccine tested on 16,000 Thai volunteers demonstrated improved resistance to the virus that causes AIDS. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it's a significant discovery. McNeil writes:

Col. Jerome H. Kim, a physician who is manager of the army’s H.I.V. vaccine program, said half the 16,402 volunteers were given six doses of two vaccines in 2006 and half were given placebos. They then got regular tests for the AIDS virus for three years. Of those who got placebos, 74 became infected, while only 51 of those who got the vaccines did.

Although the difference was small, Dr. Kim said it was statistically significant and meant the vaccine was 31.2 percent effective.

Dr. Fauci said that scientists would seldom consider licensing a vaccine less than 70 or 80 percent effective, but he added, “If you have a product that’s even a little bit protective, you want to look at the blood samples and figure out what particular response was effective and direct research from there.”

Before you get your hopes up, keep in mind this warning from Zach Weiner about science journalism. We still have a long way to go.

Link via Popular Science

Image: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Thai people get HIV, and so do monkeys. Why do you think Africa and SE-asia are hotbeds for pharmaceutical experiments? For 50$s, people volunteer for experiments that American volunteers would charge 500$ for. It's simple business sense.

It is an ethical violation only if the volunteers do not know the full effects of the experiments. Heard of Tuskegee experiments? (

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Umm... Thai people get HIV, too. They would benefit as much as anyone from such a study, so long as their government permitted it to be marketed there once testing was completed.

If there were any ethical violations here, don't you think that would be the headline instead?
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EDB: they didn't give them HIV. As Alex suggested, the article tested a group of 16,000 individuals considered at risk.
Kevin: I'm sure they warned them that it wouldn't grant immunity. They were testing two drugs that had previously shown no immunity, so even the people who didn't get placebo couldn't assume that they were immune.

On a side note, I'm very proud of the media in general for not reacting by saying "HIV CURED!!!" or some other inappropriate extrapolation.
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