Largest AIDS vaccine conference set for next week

Researchers will gather in Bangkok, Thailand, from September 12 through September 15 for the largest conference on AIDS vaccine development.

A “safe and effective AIDS vaccine would be one of the greatest public health advances ever," organizers of the AV-2011 conference said, VOANews.com reports. The organizers, however, also said that the vaccine is one of the "greatest scientific challenges."

“This year’s meeting is particularly important in that the field’s at a very interesting place scientifically and institutionally in many respects," Mitchell Warren, head of AVAC, the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, said, according to VOANews.com. "And this becomes a meeting where we will really get a sense of the enthusiasm that is clearly in the scientific community right now."

Warren cited the 2009 RV-144 AIDS vaccine trial in Thailand as a sign that an AIDS vaccine is possible. RV-144 was the largest AIDS vaccine trial ever, utilizing thousands of participants.

“We got the result two years ago, but it’s not as if that trial ended," Warren said, VOANews.com reports. "For the last two years, an international team of collaborators has been looking at the samples that were collected during the course of that trial to try to assess why that vaccine worked at all. When we got the result two years ago the community was excited, but kind of not sure why that vaccine worked. And many vaccines that we use in our public health systems, we actually don’t know why they work or how they work."