Encouraging steps in AIDS fight prompt hope for 'renaissance'

With recent advances toward creating a viable HIV vaccine, experts are hopeful for the beginning of the "renaissance" of HIV and AIDS treatment--especially during the buzz of the Vienna AIDS conference. They add that recent encouraging steps should galvanize efforts to use funds more effectively to advance the fight against the disease, as Reuters notes.

Last week, researchers announced the discovery of two new antibodies that can fight off 90 percent of HIV strains. Meanwhile, scientists from two Indian institutes--Tuberculosis Research Centre, Chennai and National AIDS Research Institute, Pune--are monitoring the successful progress of an indigenous AIDS vaccine trial. With no adverse reactions reported so far, the first phase of the trial is set to be completed this year, the Times of India reports.

"This is a pivotal moment in HIV vaccine research," says Alan Bernstein, executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, to Reuters. "The last five years have been the richest period in HIV vaccine research since the epidemic began. The question... now is how do we build on these scientific advances?" He adds that cross-border and cross-discipline collaboration among scientists was crucial.

Bill Gates has helped the growth continue, donating $34 billion from the Bill and Melinda Gates Fund to HIV and AIDS research. And he is expressing optimism--despite, as Reuters reminds readers, having said in 2005 "I'll eat my hat" if an AIDS vaccine were developed in the next decade. "The scientific results we've seen with the antibodies...and the Thai trial...really point us toward what we need to do," he said in Vienna.

Currently, there are 20 drugs on the market to help treat HIV, but there is no vaccine as of yet.

- read the Reuters coverage
- get more from the Times of India