Letter: Aids vaccine hope

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The Independent Culture
Aids vaccine hope

Sir: Jeremy Laurance ("Aids spreads on a Biblical scale", 25 November) states that "the prospect of an Aids vaccine remains a distant hope".

Over thirty million people around the world are living with HIV and Aids. Eight thousand five hundred people become infected every day and over 90 per cent of these cases are in developing countries.

It is time to give significantly more weight to HIV vaccine development. However, of all the money that is currently spent on HIV and Aids treatment, prevention and research, only 1 per cent is spent on Aids vaccine development.

Money is not going to come readily from commercial drug companies. Why should a company invest in a "one-shot" deal when it can develop drugs that people have to take every day for the rest of their lives? Unless the development of an HIV vaccine becomes an international priority, there will be no vaccine.

In a written parliamentary answer to me (3 November 1998) Clare Short said that the Government had given pounds 200,000 to the International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and pounds 300,000 of the Department for International Development's overall grant to the Medical Research Council went to support research into an HIV vaccine. A further pounds 300,000 is committed for 1998/9. Yet surely this is not enough.

In the past scientists have conquered other deadly diseases by a vaccine. According to Dr Seth Berkley, President of IAVI, we know more about HIV than any other virus.

An HIV vaccine should not be seen as a "distant hope" but with combined effort a workable reality.


Liberal Democrat International Development Spokesperson

House of Commons

London SW1