Letter from the co-executive director.
Article Type: Report
Subject: AIDS vaccines (Usage)
AIDS vaccines (Health aspects)
HIV infection (Research)
HIV infection (Prevention)
HIV infection (Risk factors)
HIV infection (Distribution)
HIV infection (Care and treatment)
Author: Simmons, Paul
Pub Date: 06/22/2009
Publication: Name: Research Initiative/Treatment Action! Publisher: The Center for AIDS: Hope & Remembrance Project Audience: General; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 The Center for AIDS: Hope & Remembrance Project ISSN: 1520-8745
Issue: Date: Summer, 2009 Source Volume: 14 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research; 690 Goods & services distribution Advertising Code: 59 Channels of Distribution Computer Subject: Company distribution practices
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 220766442
Full Text: Dear reader,

So, why haven't we ended the HIV epidemic?

In the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 56,000 new HIV infections every year. That's more than 6 an hour. Worldwide there are roughly 2.7 million new infections every year. That's more than 308 an hour. While our progress in treating HIV has been astonishing, our efforts to stop the virus from spreading have stagnated. We've been especially unlucky--and sometimes misguided--in the drive to find a vaccine. It's a fair question whether we'll ever have a vaccine.

What's wrong? And what, if anything, should we be doing differently? As in other areas of science, HIV research is rife with controversy. Researchers of ten disagree on the nature of the questions to be asked, and on the best way to answer them. You'll read some of that controversy in the pages of this issue. (One investigator told RITA! that his colleagues suffer from an "extreme version of tunnel vision." Undoubtedly, his colleagues would disagree.) And then there's the virus itself--mutable, wily, frustrating.

Today, following the notorious failures of clinical vaccine research, there's a renewed emphasis on basic science. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, makes clear in his interview (see p. 26), scientists still have a lot of bench work to do before there's a return to large-scale clinical trials.

In the meantime, investigation continues into other biomedical prevention strategies, including postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) and, more controversially, preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) (see pp. 15-16 and 31-32). When what you've been doing doesn't work, you have to try something new.

In 1984, then-Health Secretary Margaret Heckler predicted that we'd have a vaccine ready for efficacy testing in 24 months. In hindsight, that prediction was wildly naive. Nearly three decades later, the work continues. But it does continue. And the struggle goes on. And the optimism endures. L. Joel Martinez, one of The CFA's founders, used to say that our greatest weapon against HIV was hope, and that our greatest hope was research. This is the story of that research.

Until there's a cure,

Paul Simmons, RN, ACRN

Co-Executive Director/Programs
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