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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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Sharp Debate Over HIV Vaccine Failure

Scientists Can't Agree on Future of HIV Research

Funding HIV Research continued...

Several leading scientists, including Anthony Fauci, MD, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have offered stark comments recently warning that an AIDS vaccine may never be found.

Hoxie implored the group to face head-on Merck's failure, and the failure of other HIV vaccines before it.

"It comes with the territory. It is part of the process, we have to be willing to accept it, we have to be willing to fund it," he said.

"It is only one step back," said Adel Mahmoud, MD, PhD, a Princeton University professor of microbiology and the meeting's co-chair. "The status quo and finger pointing isn't going to take us anywhere."

Fauci was more enthusiastic: "Everything is on the table to look at." He added that that he was "unambiguous" about the need to shift more funding toward basic scientific discoveries that could lead to new vaccines.

HIV Vaccines: What Comes Next?

But earlier this week several HIV research advocacy groups called for the U.S. government to abandon efforts to develop an HIV vaccine. Homayoon Khanlou, MD, U.S. chief of medicine for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said that the money should instead be spent on increased HIV testing and treatment, which both help cut the risk of HIV transmission.

All the clinical trials that have been done with the vaccine have yielded no results," Khanlou told reporters. "They've left us with no clue in terms of which way to go."

Few researchers seemed willing to consider abandoning vaccine efforts entirely. But several described their field as being a crossroads.

"The idea that we shut everything we have done and get to do something else is absolutely insane," Mahmoud said.

He showed the audience of scientists a slide quoting Winston Churchill's famous speech to a group of British students during World War II. "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never," it read.

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