Before we go into the new vaccine, it is important to understand what HIV is and how you can contract HIV.

What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This virus attacks the immune system with a very strong force that even individuals with a very strong immune system cannot fight.

How is HIV contracted?

The HIV infection is brought on by catching the virus. The only way to catch HIV is by coming into contact with a persons’ blood, vaginal fluids, or semen that is infected with the human immunodeficiency virus or infection.

The most common way that HIV is spread is through unprotected sex or sharing drug needles. Mothers that are infected can also pass the virus on to their unborn child or even during breast-feeding.

It cannot spread through kissing or drinking after a person with HIV.

Along with understanding a bit about HIV you should also understand more about vaccines and how they work to help your body fight off the disease or infection that the vaccine helps to prevent.

What are vaccines?

A vaccine will contain the HIV virus only that the germ is weak or possibly dead. This dead germ is used to create the vaccine.

How vaccines work?

When a person is given any type of vaccine, the body will attack this foreign substance with antibodies, which will kill off the germ, thus creating a resistance to the virus. This leads to protection against the disease or virus.

The New HIV Vaccine

The new experimental HIV vaccine actually prevented an infection of the HIV virus recently. According to the World Health Organization and the U.N. agency known as UNAIDS the results “instilled new hope” for future research of the HIV vaccine. The vaccine was tested on over 16,000 volunteers in Thailand, which was a combination of two unsuccessful vaccines. The results showed that the risk of becoming infected was reduced more than 31%, as reported by researchers in Bangkok.

The benefit may not be as good as everyone would like to see; however, as stated by Colonel Jerome Kim, “it’s the first evidence that we could have a safe and effective preventive vaccine.” Colonel Kim was one of the individuals in charge of the study for the United States Army, which sponsored the research with the National Institute of the Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, on the other hand, stated, “It is “not the end of the road,” and went on to say, “It gives me cautious optimism about the possibility of improving this result” and developing a more effective AIDS vaccine, Fauci said.”This is something that we can do.”

The research was only performed on HIV strains in Thailand and it is not known if the vaccine will work on other strains throughout the world.

More about the Research

Around 7,5000 individuals are infected daily with HIV with close to 2 million people dying from AIDS in 2007 alone as estimated by UNAIDS.

This new research used a two vaccine combination that had not worked previous in a prime boost action. The first one primes or prepares the immune system to attack the HIV virus while the second prime gave more power to the response of the body to fight the infection.

The two vaccines included ALVAC and AIDSVAX. ALVAC was developed by Sanofi-Aventis and AIDSVAX was developed by VaxGen Inc.

ALVAC uses a bird virus that was altered to ensure it could cause any harm to human disease to carry manmade versions of 3 HIV genes into the body. AIDSVAX contains a version of a protein on HIV’s surface that was genetically engineered. The vaccines created are not made at all from the whole HIV virus like most vaccines and cannot in any way cause an HIV infection. When used separately never vaccine prevented HIV infections.

“The combination is stronger than each of the individual members,” stated the Army’s Kim, a physician who manages the Army’s HIV vaccine program.

In the study were men and women, residents of Thailand between the ages of 18 and 30 that were only average risk of becoming infected with HIV. During the study, half of the group received 4 prime doses of ALVAC along with 2 boost doses of AIDSVAX during a six month time frame. The other half of the group received dummy shots.

All participants volunteered for the study after learning of the potential risks that could be involved.

All participants were provided with counseling, treatment, and condoms while being tested every six months for HIV. Any person that became infected received free treatment with antiviral medications. Each participant received an HIV test every 6 months for a total period of 3 years after the vaccinations were completed.

The results of the study

New infections were seen in 51 of the 8,197 that were given the vaccine
New infections were seen in 74 of the 8,198 that were given dummy shots.
This showed that the vaccine lowered the risk of infection to 31% of the group that received the vaccine.
Two of the individuals that were given dummy shots died.