11 June 2008

Aids vaccine decades away

The US has told the United Nations that a vaccine against the Aids virus remains elusive 27 years after the epidemic began and could take decades more to develop.

The United States has told the United Nations that a vaccine against the Aids virus remains elusive 27 years after the epidemic began and could take decades more to develop.

Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the UN General Assembly that clinical tests of an HIV vaccine were disappointing last year. He said an effective vaccine could take decades to develop and that the Aids virus has shown its "uncanny ability to elude the body's natural attempt to contain it."

"HIV has proven to be very different from those viruses for which we have developed effective immunisation," Fauci said. "Historically it has taken decades to find effective vaccines to combat most infectious diseases."

The first known Aids victims were five gay men in San Francisco, whose cases were reported by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention this week in 1983. The UN said more than 25 million people have died of Aids since then and more than 42 million people are now living with HIV worldwide.

2.5 million infected annually
The UN reported that some progress has been made toward its goal of halting and reversing the spread of Aids by 2015. But it said also that new cases of infections - 2.5 million last year - outpaced all efforts to provide anti-retroviral treatment in poor countries. A total of 1 million people received the treatment last year.

Germany's Minister of Health Ulla Schmidt warned in a prepared speech that the UN goal of providing access to treatment to infected people may not be reached by 2010, another UN benchmark goal on treatment.

She said the world's eight most industrialised nations, or G-8, decided last year to provide 60 billion dollars to fight HIV/Aids, including 4 billion Euros from Germany by 2015. She said Germany plans to contribute 600 million Euros by 2010.

"In this process, political leadership is vital and has to be assumed by heads of state and government unambiguously, in order to build up infrastructure and to overcome discrimination, including HIV-specific travel restrictions," she said. The world spent 10 billion dollars last year to fight the epidemic.

Governments urged to step up efforts
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the high-level discussion, calling for scaling up the levels of commitment and financing by governments in order for the UN to halt new cases of infections by 2015.

"How we fare in fighting Aids will impact all our efforts to cut poverty and improve nutrition, reduce child mortality and improve maternal health, curb the spread of malaria and tuberculosis," he said.

The UN conference was called to review progress made and map new strategies to reach the 2015 deadline. – (Sapa)

June 2008

Read more:
UN hits Aids target 2 years late
Aids strategies not working?


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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