AIDS vaccine a new world hope
The World Health Organization and the U.N. agency UNAIDS said the results "instilled new hope" in the field of HIV vaccine research, although researchers say it likely is many years before a vaccine might be available.
The vaccine -- a combination of two previously unsuccessful vaccines -- cut the risk of becoming infected with HIV by more than 31 percent in the world's largest AIDS vaccine trial of more than 16,000 volunteers in Thailand, researchers announced Thursday in Bangkok.
Even though the benefit is modest, "it's the first evidence that we could have a safe and effective preventive vaccine," Col. Jerome Kim told The Associated Press. He helped lead the study for the U.S. Army, which sponsored it with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The institute's director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned that this is "not the end of the road," but he said he was surprised and very pleased by the outcome.
"It gives me cautious optimism about the possibility of improving this result" and developing a more effective AIDS vaccine, Fauci said. "This is something that we can do."
The Thailand Ministry of Public Health conducted the study. The U.S. Army has long worked with that government and others to develop and test vaccines and medicines to protect troops and the general public.
The study used strains of HIV common in Thailand. Whether such a vaccine would work against other strains in the U.S., Africa or elsewhere in the world is unknown, scientists stressed.
"Today marks a historic milestone," said Mitchell Warren, executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, an international group that has worked toward developing a vaccine. Warren was not involved in the study.
Details of the $105 million study will be given at a vaccine conference in Paris in October.