Reporting AIDS: HIV Vaccine Trials

As a kid, growing up in California, Legend Rivera had some ideas about AIDS. Back then, he said, “it was like coodies.” In high school in the 1990′s, Rivera was taught that HIV wasn’t coodies and by practicing safer sex he could stay uninfected. However, until an outreach worker from the NYC Vaccine Trials Unit approached him a few years ago, Rivera was unaware of another way to stay uninfected, an HIV vaccine. “I just didn’t know about them,” he said. “It really intrigued me.”

He’s not alone. Most people know little or nothing about HIV vaccines. When asked, some can’t say whether one is available or not. Of course, twenty-five years into the AIDS pandemic, there is still no vaccine to prevent infection from HIV.

In the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, researchers and scientists boldly proclaimed a vaccine to prevent AIDS would be ready within two years. Since then, nothing even remotely that optimistic has been said. It’s a prime example of just how little was known about the cause of AIDS. Had science clearly realized that AIDS was caused by a retrovirus, able to change genetic structure ad infinitum, they would never had made that statement.

Vaccines work by teaching the body to recognize and destroy the specific genetic structure of a virus. When Jonas Salk invented the Polio vaccine, he actually injected a weakened version of the virus into patients. The weakened version taught their bodies to recognize and destroy the real one. Measles, Mumps, and Polio have all but been eradicated using the Salk method.

However, because HIV is a retrovirus able to change genetic structure, the old vaccine technique is useless. HIV is a moving genetic target that changes too quickly for Salks technique to work. Creating an effective HIV vaccine will require a new and unique approach.

Today, a network of over 25 institutions are engaged in finding that approach. Their efforts are joined through the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. The NYC HIV Vaccine Trials Unit is a part of that network.

The NYC HIV Vaccine Trials Unit takes experimental HIV vaccines from Phase II of clinical trial to Phase III. In other words, they do the human testing of vaccines that have already been tested in animals. So far, only two HIV vaccines have made it to Phase III trials around the world, said Steven Chang, Site Coordinator at the NYC HVTU. “ Unfortunately,” he said, “neither of them were shown to be effective.”

In this episode of Reporting AIDS, we are joined by Stephen Chang, Site Coordinator at the NYC HIV Vaccines Trial Unit and Legend Rivera, a volunteer participant injected with an experimental HIV vaccine. Please join us as we talk about HIV vaccines.

5 thoughts on “Reporting AIDS: HIV Vaccine Trials

  1. While I’m glad you’re covering this subject, some of the information in the introduction here is wrong. Scientists knew full well that HIV was a retrovirus when the statement hoping for an early vaccine was made. The problem is not that HIV is a retrovirus. The problem is two-fold. First, it is because HIV is very slopping when it reproduces itself. This means that it makes frequent “mistakes” or mutations in its genetic copies. Secondly, one of the areas changes most rapidly is ts outer coat, and for a vaccine to work, it generally has to mimic that outer coat of the virus. Since that coat is constantly changing, even within an individual, traditional vaccines only work for a single example of the virus. The nxt time the vaccine is used, it is likely to fail. But this is not simply because it’s a retrvirus. It is simply a characteristic of the particular virus.

  2. Thanks for your comment. We have updated the intro to make it clearer. Specifically, I was referring to a passage in Jon Cohen’s book, Shot in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine.

    Cohen retells the story of Margaret Heckler, then Secretary of Health and Human Services, who announced at a press conference on April 23, 1984 that “we hope to have a vaccine ready for testing in about two years.”

    At that moment, two scientists were claiming they had discovered the cause of AIDS, though the scientific community wasn’t fully certain either was right; Dr. Luc Montagnier in France- who named his discovery LAV, and Robert Gallo in the U.S. that called it HTLV-III.

    It wasn’t until later that the virus was renamed HIV and the scientific community supported the claim that it caused AIDS.

    For a look at the history of AIDS up to 1986, some of my information came from

  3. Seems to me that these vaccinologists obviously do not have a clue what they are doing.

    Consider this: The HIV tests test not for the presence of a virus, but test for what is believed to be the body’s own natural ANTIBODIES to HIV.

    A vaccine teaches the body how to make these very ANTIBODIES. Therefore, if there was an HIV vaccine, then EVERYONE WOULD TEST POSITIVE FOR HIV!

    The number one reason that scientists give for no vaccine to HIV is that HIV is said to mutate and therefore no vaccine has been effective.

    However, scientists COMPLETELY DISAGREE as to whether HIV is actually mutating. See the following from a very recent interview by the San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times,

    with scientists and AIDS Dissident scientists. You will note that the orthodox scientists can’t even agree that HIV is mutating or not!

    Duesberg and others question why there has been no AIDS vaccine after nearly two decades as Heckler promised would be forthcoming within two years during her April 1984 HIV press conference.
    “Tying [HIV] to a virus doesn’t do it,” Duesberg said. “Every year it’s not going to work. That’s how it’s going to be. With these billions of dollars [spent], I consider that as proof of my hypothesis that it’s chemical and isn’t a virus.”
    However, Moore said the search for a vaccine is far more complex.
    “It’s an extraordinarily difficult scientific problem that is defeating the finest scientists working in the field. It’s because HIV is different than other viruses that interact with the human organism in much simpler ways…. If it were as easy to deal with as yellow fever virus or poliovirus it would have been done years ago….
    “HIV is a member of the lentivirus family of retroviruses,” Moore said. “It’s been very difficult to make vaccines in animals against other lentiviruses with similar properties.”
    To a degree, inconsistencies also exist in what mainstream researchers hold to be true about the nature of the AIDS virus.
    For example, another reason it has been so difficult to produce a vaccine, Moore believes, is the “incredible variation in the HIV genome.”
    “It’s a very, very variable virus because it mutates so rapidly,” Moore said.
    However, Dr. Davey Smith, an assistant adjunct professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at UCSD, said it has been his experience that the virus hasn’t been mutating.
    “There’s been a bunch of papers around about that,” said Smith, who agreed to answer some specific questions about HIV, so long as they were removed from the issue of the AIDS dissidents. “I don’t think there’s really much difference between the virus that is circulating now and the virus that was circulating 20 years ago.”
    Finding a vaccine has been difficult, Smith said, because of the way the virus works itself into DNA.
    “Once it gets into the bloodstream and it integrates into the person’s own DNA, it lives there … and we can’t get it out,” Smith said. “Even though we can start someone on therapy and we can keep the virus from producing copies of itself, we can’t get it out of the DNA form. Once we stop the therapy, it just makes more copies of itself.”

    By the way, Moore, in the above, is John P. Moore, the pharma funded Anti-dissident that runs the dubious AIDStruth site. Moore rants that HIV mutates as the reason for no vaccine.

    Duesberg, is Peter Duesberg, one of the original HIV rethinkers and AIDS dissidents. Duesberg says no vaccine in 25 years makes it ever so obvious that the dissident position that HIV does not cause AIDS is obvious.

    And Dr. Davey is a mainstream researcher who says HIV is the same today as it ever was, and the problem is not one of mutating virus but because HIV becomes one with the bodies natural DNA. (Davey, in his mainstream belief that HIV is somehow mysteriously and yet unknown, the cause of AIDS, for some unknown reason, does not take the obvious next step of questioning why HIV lives peacefully as part of cellular DNA, and therefore could not be construed as a causative factor for AIDS).

    One further note, is that Martin Delaney, in the first comment in this thread up above, claims that HIV mutates. Not that he would know, as he himself has absolutely no education in science or virology. He runs the San Francisco AIDS drug advocacy group, (pharma funded of course) called Project Inform.

    Strangely, Delaney’s project inform has nothing on its site except for pharma drug pushing. Not a word to HIV positives of anything healthy, such as to avoid drug abuse, or get treatment for drug abuse or treatment for emotional stress. Just a big ole pillarama for those inclined to take their chances on lipodystrophy, neuropathy, liver-kidney-heart failure, and all of the other myriad effects well known to be associated to anti-HIV drugs.

    Perhaps that is why the dissidents prefer to call Delaney’s group “Project Deform”.

    Just a couple of years ago (2005), I had the pleasure of attending one of Delaney’s public seminar on HIV and treatment. He is followed around by a cadre of drug sales reps who set up their tables at Delaneys public meetings, from just about all of the drug companies that make HIV drugs. After his speech, he asked if anyone had questions. I raised my hand and held up the LA Times article by David Willman that exposed 530 top scientists and directors of the NIH who were taking cash and stock from pharma companies.,1,5365038.story?page=1&coll=la-home-headlines I asked Delaney, what he had to say about Dr. William Paul, the former head of the Office of AIDS Research, who was in charge of all clinical AIDS drug trials for years, who had just been exposed for taking $930,000 in undeclared cash and stock from pharmaceutical companies.

    Delaney broke out in a cold sweat and turned red as a beet, and shouted “LIES, its all lies, I’ve known Dr. Paul for years. He drives an old beat up car. He doesn’t have any money!” And Delaney angrily marched off the stage.

    Sure, Martin Delaney. I believe you. A director at the National Institute of Health, a director whose pay is more than $280,000 a year, simply can’t afford a decent car. Sure Martin, sure…….

  4. How do you tell a “false Positive” from the vaccine participant, from just a regular old hiv positive? WHy are antibodies to hiv a bad thing from sex but a good thing from a vaccine? Why are there so many liars who are hiv propagandists? Why are gay men still used as guinea pigs and scapegoats for Amerika’s sex shame? Why are there so many positives who have not taken any anti viral drugs and remain healthy for many year.? Why are there so many more scientists and doctors who dont think hiv does anything? Why is hiv info a religion and not based on solid science.

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