Excitement was brimming in the scientific world. A three year study investigating the effectiveness of a vaccine preventing HIV ended recently, and we have the results.
This research was carried out in Thailand, funded by the Thai government and US military. Over sixteen thousand 18-30 year olds took part – all HIV negative. Half the group were given a ‘true’ vaccine and the others were given a dummy vaccine. As well as this, everyone was counselled regarding HIV/AIDS prevention and given condoms.
For the next three years they were tested for HIV every 6 months. Of the 8000 receiving the dummy vaccine, 74 got HIV. Of the 8000 receiving the ‘true’ vaccine, 51 people got HIV. This doesn’t sound a huge improvement, but according to the researchers, was statistically significant (meaning a 95% chance the results were not a coincidence).
It seemed too good to be true. Indeed, when the research was later reviewed at Paris conference, there was bad news. Supplementary calculations were shown, excluding the results of those who didn’t complete the entire course of vaccines. This meant the results became insignificant. It was also suggested that that the vaccine works well initially but positive effects could wear off later. Finally, this vaccine would apparently only work in Thailand – disheartening news for many countries in Africa, where HIV/AIDS is a national crisis.
Sadly, despite the inspire hope from the trial, it looks like the world will have to wait for the answer to this problem.