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U.S. doesn't care about AIDS? Halts vaccine, Danes pick up the torch America dropped

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Finding a vaccine that defeats HIV, the virus that causes AIDS is essential for the future of the human race. Denmark researchers have since taken up the torch after a  U.S. trial first started in 2009 was halted last week. With clinical trials underway in Denmark, researchers at the Aarhus University Hospital are using a "novel approach" to fight the HIV virus.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Danish scientists claim they're on the brink of a "promising" breakthrough to cure HIV. The trial uses a treatment that forces the HIV virus from so-called reservoirs it forms in DNA cells, bringing the virus to the surface.

Once the virus is exposed, the body's natural immune system can destroy it with the help of a vaccine.

"The challenge will be getting the patients' immune system to recognize the virus and destroy it. This depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems," Dr. Ole Sogaard, a senior researcher at Aarhus told reporters.

Awarded a new round of funding of about $2.1 million from the Danish Research Council, 15 people have been signed up for the trial. Similar research is being conducted in Britain through a collaboration of five universities focusing on people who were only recently diagnosed with HIV. Sogaard reiterated that the research in Denmark would be a cure for those already infected, but wouldn't prevent HIV or AIDS.

Finding an accessible cure that is affordable to the public received a major setback in the United States when experimental shots failed to reduce the amount of the AIDS virus in the blood, the National Institutes of Health said.

"It's disappointing," Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said. Fauci added, "There was important information gained."

The study enrolled 2,504 volunteers, mostly gay men, in 19 cities beginning in 2009. Half received dummy shots, and half received a two-part experimental vaccine developed by the NIH. All were provided free condoms and given extensive counseling about the risks for HIV.

Known as "prime-boost," the DNA-based vaccine made with genetically engineered HIV material is given to prime the immune system to attack the AIDS virus. A different vaccine, encasing the same material inside a shell made of a disabled cold virus, then acts as a booster shot to strengthen that response.

The intent was to train immune cells known as T cells to spot and attack the very earliest HIV-infected cells in someone's body. The hope was that the vaccine could either prevent HIV infection, or help those infected anyway to fight it.

When researchers examined only participants diagnosed after being in the study for at least 28 weeks, there were 27 HIV infections among the vaccinated and 21 among the placebo recipients.

The NIH said Thursday that it is stopping vaccinations in the study, known as HVTN 505, but that researchers will continue to study the volunteers' health.

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