An HIV vaccine is not likely to be developed in the next decade, the head of the U.N.'s AIDS prevention program said Monday, adding that any breakthrough would be the result of a long process of trial and error. UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot, formerly a top medical researcher, said authorities should not pin their hopes on a vaccine providing a quick-fix to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Researchers are carrying out human trials of HIV vaccines in Italy, Germany, and South Africa, but the only full scale trial, conducted mainly in the United States and Thailand, ended in failure last year. "I'm not optimistic about these trials," Piot said. "I applaud them, they are necessary because that's how we'll make progress, but for all practical purposes UNAIDS does not believe there will be an effective vaccine in the next 10 years."
Piot said research on an HIV vaccine was likely to be slow, even with increased interest in the area from pharmaceutical companies. "Vaccine development is a very empirical type of science. It's based on trial and error; all scientists would say that," he said.
About 40 million people worldwide were reportedly living with HIV/AIDS by the end of 2003, of which 19 million were women. About 40 million people are infected with HIV and 5 million more are infected every year, according to latest World Health Organisation figures. The WTO estimates 3 million people die of AIDS every year.