Editorial: New hope instilled by AIDS vaccine successPublished 10:01am Monday, September 28, 2009
Monday, Sept. 28, 2009
The premise of the world’s largest study of an AIDS vaccine which the U.S. Army helped sponsor was that perhaps the virus could be prevented the same way it’s treated.
That means scientists combined two vaccines that work different ways, though neither was successful individually in previous trials.
This experimental approach protected one in three people from contracting the deadly disease, researchers announced Sept. 24 in Bangkok.
That’s not enough success for widespread use, but it sure sent hopes soaring 26 years after discovery of the AIDS virus began writing a sad story which for many years was a death sentence.
Who could help but be moved by the enormity of the AIDS Memorial Quilt when it came to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo – especially with Dowagiac names stitched into the tapestry?
Last we knew, there were more than 47,000 grave-sized panels. Since the largest ongoing community art project in the world has grown so enormous, can be reviewed online and toured in small sections, the last time it was displayed in full was on The Mall in Washington in 1996.
It was inspired by a San Francisco march in 1985 which memorialized a supervisor named Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone slain in 1978.
They are much better known now that Sean Penn played the former in an Oscar-winning film.
The devastating 1991 diagnosis for basketball great Earvin Johnson, who wore 33 for the Michigan State Spartans after our own Edgar Wilson, shocked us with the recognizable face it put on AIDS. Like Magic, he’s not only still with us, but he turned 50 Aug. 14.
Though many scientists feared an AIDS vaccine would never prove possible, here’s fresh hope confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and a United Nations agency.
It could be years more before such a vaccine could be widely available, yet Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, our Army surgeon general, seems to hit the nail precisely on the head when he called it “truly a great moment for world medicine.”
Why else would a 26-year wait feel worth it?
The vaccine cocktail cut the risk of becoming infected with HIV by almost a third in the study of more than 16,000 Thailand volunteers.
If that doesn’t sound like much, “It’s the first evidence that we could have a safe and effective preventive vaccine,” Col Jerome Kim, an Army doctor who helped lead the study, told The Associated Press.
The outcome “gives me cautious optimism about the possibility of improving this result,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a study co-sponsor.
There will be a meeting in New York this week to discuss where to go from here.