Archive for October 15th, 2011

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  –  English proverb

Last December I reported that an HIV patient had been cured in Berlin via stem cell transplant, and on September 29th Spanish researchers announced a possible vaccine:

Spanish scientists at the National Biotech Centre in Madrid say a new vaccine could reduce HIV to a “minor chronic infection”…90% of participants given the MVA-B vaccine showed an immune response to the virus and 85% kept the immunity a year later.  According to a press release from The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC):

The success of this vaccine, CSIC’s patent, is based on the capability of a human’s immune system to learn how to react over time against virus particles and infected cells.  “MVA-B vaccine has proven to be as powerful as any other vaccine currently being studied, or even more,” says Mariano Esteban, head researcher.  MVA-B is an attenuated virus, which has already been used in the past to eradicate smallpox, and also as a model in the research of many other vaccines.  The “B” stands for the HIV subtype it is meant to work against, the most common in Europe.

Once injected, the vaccine teaches the…immune system to track down and fight off the virus.  “It is like showing a picture of the HIV so that it is able to recognize it if it sees it again in the future,” Esteban says…[adding] “If this genetic cocktail passes Phase II and Phase III future clinic trials, and makes it into production, in the future HIV could be compared to herpes virus nowadays.”

This is fantastic news, though I have to wonder if prudish American parents, eager to cut off their children’s noses to spite their faces, will refuse to allow them this vaccine as many have refused the one for venereal warts?  Wrongheaded opposition to that one is so widespread the California legislature felt it necessary to enact a law allowing teenagers to get the vaccine (and any future vaccines for STDs, including HIV) without the knowledge of parents who would rather their daughters die than have sex; of course, there is widespread outcry over the law from people who think it should be OK to deny one’s teenage children access to health care.

California is also the state in which a city (San Francisco) with a large gay population recently saw a (defeated) effort to ban infant circumcision, despite the fact that we’ve known for five years now that it reduces the chance of HIV infection by 60% (future attempts at circumcision bans have since been outlawed by the California legislature).  In Europe, the practice is now being encouraged as one of the most cost-effective means of stopping the spread of the disease, as detailed in the second part of our lead story:

In other HIV news, a group of European economists says adult male circumcision is not the most cost-effective solution for stopping the disease and resources should be directed towards other options like finding an HIV vaccine, infant male circumcision, removing the risk of infection from blood transfusions, and stopping mother-to-child transmission of the virus…Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, told a group meeting at Georgetown University, “We need to spend money on things we know work,” and added, “Making blood transfusions safe costs almost nothing, but we’re not doing it.”

That this fact is virtually ignored on this side of the pond should come as no surprise; the United States in general and California in particular are well-known for their inverted priorities and arse-backward “solutions”, spending tremendous sums of money and enormous effort on problems that barely exist (such as “human trafficking” and domestic terrorism) while ignoring threats to thousands or even millions of people.  One ongoing example from California is another HIV-related issue, the condom porn controversy, the absurdity of which was highlighted in my column of one year ago today.  Unfortunately, Americans as a group are mired in religious thinking, even when they’re not religious; they tend to unquestioningly accept whatever pronouncements are made by those they view as “authorities” (whether religious, political, cultural or simply famous), and never let little things like facts change their minds.

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