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Published: 01 November 2008

These days, when one talks of vaccines in the context of HIV, thoughts immediately turn to the current expert view that despite intensive global efforts, a vaccine for HIV-negative people that prevents them becoming infected with HIV remains elusive, and might never be found.

In fact, most researchers now believe that a preventive vaccine will be unlikely to completely prevent HIV infection, but rather might be able keep viral load under control should infection occur. This would also preserve the immune system and prevent, or at least delay, the need for anti-HIV drugs.

This is much closer to the long-held concept of therapeutic vaccines, aimed at restoring immune function (and possibly keeping viral load under control without anti-HIV drugs) in people who are already living with HIV, and where research continues at some pace, despite many setbacks.

Although some experts doubt the concept will work, researchers at London’s Chelsea & Westminster Hospital are about to start a new trial that combines a therapeutic vaccine with several other immune modulating agents that they hope will eventually lead towards a new kind of treatment strategy – one that doesn’t require a lifetime of antiretroviral treatment.

However, Dr Graeme Moyle tells HTU that a previous UK therapeutic vaccine study recruited poorly and that “it is all very well to enthuse about research but ultimately research requires volunteers and this ethic appears to have largely been lost in the community and by many physicians.”

An alternative to lifelong daily therapy would be a huge step forward.  Let’s hope we have some answers soon.

In Don't forget the children, we examine concern over untested children of HIV-positive parents, and the issue of late presentation and delayed diagnosis of adolescents infected at birth.

Some experts are doubtful that the development of a therapeutic vaccine would allow all HIV-positive people to control the virus long-term without drugs, the way that some long-term non-progressors and so-called ‘elite controllers’ are already able to do. But a new combination approach begs the question Can we create ‘elite controllers’?

The recently implemented NHS charging policy was brought in to prevent ‘health tourists’ from accessing free hospital care. In The consequences of fear we discover that not only is there no evidence to support the myth of ‘HIV health tourism’, there is strong evidence to indicate that policies based on this myth are causing a great deal of harm and distress.

 In No allowances, HTU reader Michael Ratsey writes of his traumatic experiences caused by the Disability Living Allowance review.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
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This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.