Promising results reported from Finnish HIV vaccination tests

Officials with the Finnish pharmaceutical company Fit Biotech announced recently that results of an HIV vaccination they have been developing are promising.

Their progress was announced during the international AIDS conference currently being held in Vienna, YLE.fi reports.

Officials said the DNA-based vaccine, FIT-06, showed unprecedented long-term reductions in viral load and significant CD4 cell count increases in previously untreated HIV-infected patients. The researchers said the effect lasted longer than two years in the absence of any anti-retroviral therapy.

Professor of Medicine Giuseppe Pantealeo, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and an investigator on the research team told YLE.fi that the study, which was carried out in Johannesburg, South Africa, is the first time that an immune-based HIV intervention has reduced viremia in previously untreated patients.

Pantealeo said that the results offer hope for an alternative to antiretroviral therapy for the millions of HIV-infected who have no access to it.

“This is the first demonstration that an immune-based therapy can interfere with HIV replication in infected people who have not yet started ART,” Pantealeo told YLE.fi “By analyzing these patients' immune responses in detail, we will gain invaluable information to guide us in further improving the vaccine.”

Meanwhile, a record number of Finns have tested positive for HIV this year. To date, 109 new cases have been reported as opposed to last year’s total of 180.

Doctor Jussi Sutinen, a specialist at the Infections Clinic of the Helsinki University Central Hospital, told YLE.fi that ignorance is to blame and that too many young people don’t take risk seriously enough.

The World Health Organization reported a total of 5.2 million people were receiving retroviral treatment for the HIV virus. Some 33 million people are infected with the virus across the world.