Push For HIV Vaccine At Summit

AIDS, World Map, Skull, HIV
The Bush administration won backing from major allies for a proposal to accelerate development of an HIV vaccine, and President Bush on Thursday proposed spending $15 million to launch it.

The $15 million would gather people together at a yet-to-be determined medical center in the United States to advance vaccine research, said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.

Group of Eight countries meeting at an economic summit this week in Sea Island adopted President Bush's plan for a "Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise" — a blueprint for speeding up development of a vaccine. The plan, Fauci said, would:

  • Set up HIV vaccine development centers around the world to coordinate efforts.
  • Work to increase the capacity for manufacturing vaccine.
  • Standardize laboratories' measurement systems around the world so that advances in one lab are usable in others.
  • Build a network of clinics for trials.
  • Allow regulatory authorities in different countries to recognize clinical trials across borders.

    "The body has a lot of trouble handling the HIV virus, which means that there are a lot of scientific problems that we need to solve before we get a vaccine," he said. "The only way we're going to do that is if everybody globally who's working on this works on it in a synergistic way."

    Some 14,000 people are infected with the AIDS virus each day, 5 million a year. And 3 million people die of the disease each year, Fauci said.

    On Thursday, experts warned mistakes made by industrialized nations in dealing with the AIDS epidemic could be repeated in developing countries unless HIV prevention efforts are expanded along with treatment,

    In a report published ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok next month, scientists cited an unprecedented opportunity to integrate HIV prevention with treatment programs in poor countries, where most of the infections now are.

    "This is the best chance the world has had to build a comprehensive response to the global epidemic," said Dr. Helene Gayle, co-chair of the Global HIV Prevention Working Group, an international panel of nearly 50 AIDS experts, which published the report.

    "More widespread access to treatment is likely to bring millions of people into health care settings, providing new opportunities for health care workers to deliver and reinforce HIV prevention messages.

    "Now is the time to act, as treatment programs are being launched and expanded," Gayle said.

    As the epidemic evolved in the richer countries, governments tended to emphasize treatment rather than prevention. As HIV infection became a manageable disease with the arrival of potent drugs, complacency set in, studies have shown. Condom use declined among some populations, other risky habits resurged and infection rates crept up again.

    "If you look at budgets around the world, when treatment is introduced, often times it becomes increasingly the larger part of the budget and prevention spending stays flat or even decreases," Gayle said.

    "Prevention and treatment should not be pitted against each other. They need to go hand in hand."