Since we first became aware of HIV, various attempts were made to within research to develop treatments and vaccinations. Sadly, with the exception of one trial, there was little success in developing an efficacious vaccine. So we were not surprised when we recently heard about the reports of another trial being interrupted.
The trial, which was conducted in the US, was rather large scale and had enrolled 2504 volunteers to date. In total, 19 cities took part, and all the participants were either gay males or transgender males having sexual relationships with gay men. All the participants were offered condoms and took part in extensive counselling about the risks of HIV. The entire sample was randomly split into two groups. One group received a placebo, whereas the other one was given two different types of injections. Firstly they were given a vaccine that had genetically engineered HIV material. This was done in order to prime the immune system to attack the virus. The second injection was a booster, which was meant to enhance and strengthen the immune response. Neither of these vaccines was capable of causing HIV.
However, an independent review board concluded that the vaccine was not reducing the amount of HIV in the blood or preventing HIV infection. In addition to that, a marginal difference was noted between the groups in that a few more participants in the vaccination group had been infected with HIV. However, this was not statistically significant and was likely to be due to chance. Due to the risk to the participants’ health, the study was stopped by the National Institute of Health. Nevertheless, the researchers stated that they would continue to monitor the participants’ health.
Despite that, it is worth noting that here are several other ongoing trials within this field. The most notable of those is a follow up of a Thai trial, which was the most successful HIV trial to date. The initial trial, which occurred in 2009 indicated that their vaccine reduced HIV infections by 31.2%. Therefore, it is unlikely that the idea of developing an HIV vaccine will be abandoned any time soon.
Although it is unfortunate that the current trial was unsuccessful, the data from the research could still hold valuable and useful information. In the world of research, where it is often a case of publish or perish, it is interesting to note that a study which failed to produce the desired results is given its due attention. Nevertheless, until vaccinations are developed, the best interventions appear to be condoms and early detection.