An HIV vaccine is closer - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

An HIV vaccine is closer

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FLINT (WJRT) -

(02/22/13) - Researchers are actually working hard right now to come up with a vaccine against HIV. Every year, 50,000 Americans are diagnosed, and close to 20,000 die.

While science is not close, there is some reason for hope. HIV prevention advocate Benjamin Perkins stresses safe sex. As a gay man, staying disease free is important to him, too.

He even volunteered for an HIV vaccine trial, "I feel like ultimately the gold standard is a vaccine."

Fenway Health's Dr. Kenneth Mayer is testing a new vaccine in humans. It uses a modified cold virus to deliver genetic material into the body that resembles HIV, but really isn't. Thinking it's the real virus, the immune system attacks.  

"Laboratory studies so far suggest that this combination gives very strong immune responses," Mayer says.

In other research, monkeys are helping scientists test a unique vaccine that could create an HIV blocking barrier in your skin. "You would have a layer of antibody against that, that would protect the entry of the virus."

Texas Bio-Med's Marie Claire Gauduin co-developed the stem cell-based vaccine. The vaccine works by becoming a part of your immune system.  

"This is a part of you now, because your stem cells are doing it for you," Gauduin says.

Benjamin is still HIV free. The vaccine he was given did not turn out to be the solution to preventing the spread of the virus.  

He still has hope for a future vaccine, "maybe someday we'll get a home run."      

Testing of the stem-cell based vaccine in monkeys just started in January. Researchers tell us they should know if it protects the animals against the virus by 2015. If it's approved for human testing, those trials could take up to six years.

Meanwhile, recruiting for Dr. Mayer's vaccine is going on right now at sites across the country. Visit www.HOPETAKESACTION.org for more information on how to enroll.

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