LOS ANGELES, November 16 /PRNewswire/

For the second time in two weeks, clinical researchers working to develop an AIDS vaccine have announced that their efforts have stumbled or, in the case of Merck -- outright failed -- after Merck's AIDS vaccine trial was halted last week when its vaccine was suspected of actually making some study participants more susceptible to contracting HIV.

These latest shortcomings in the increasingly elusive search for a safe and effective AIDS vaccine underscore the need to focus on promoting HIV prevention and scaling up the delivery of lifesaving antiretroviral treatment (ART), both proven and existing strategies, to help keep people around the world from becoming infected, or for those already living with HIV/AIDS, alive and well, said AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).

Earlier today, Reuters reported that " ... another experimental AIDS vaccine may damage the immune system by exhausting key cells ... a finding that may further cloud the field of HIV vaccines." Reuters noted that the researchers, who published their findings in the 'Journal of Clinical Investigation' said that, " ... vaccines using the viruses should not be tested on people until more studies are done," and that, " ... In mice, the adeno-associated virus, or AAV vaccines, directly interfered with immune cells called CD8 T-cells ... the 'killer' T-cells that a vaccine is supposed to muster to fight HIV."

"Development of a safe and effective AIDS vaccine is a clearly a noble and worthy goal; however, the sad truth remains that more than 40 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS today, yet barely two million of them have access to lifesaving antiretroviral AIDS treatments," said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President. "Treatments that actually do work and help keep those fortunate enough to have access to them alive and well. Treatments, which also have also been around, and continually improved, for over a decade. These recent failures in vaccine development underscore just how tenuous the quest for an AIDS vaccine remains, and reminds us of what effective, but underused tools, including antiretroviral treatment, we already have available to us today. While we long for the day when there is an effective preventive AIDS vaccine, we also call for a reevaluation of the distribution of limited government resources in the battle against AIDS, and renew our call for a greatly stepped-up worldwide commitment to bringing antiretroviral treatment to many, many more of those 38 million people still in need."

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the US' largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 61,000 individuals in 18 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia.