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Despite advances in vaccine, HIV testing still important

Category: HIV

This week brought some exciting news to the health community with word that a vaccine that could possibly prevent the spread of HIV was seeing some positive results.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health helped fund the study that involved more than 16,000 adults in Thailand. According to researchers, the trial of the vaccine showed that it reduced the chance of being infected with AIDS by 31 percent.

Though the percentage may seem small, it is the first instance of medication offering protection from HIV, states the news provider.

"Anti-retrovirals are obviously a very important tool against AIDS, but preventing infections is the highest priority," Saladin Osmanov, coordinator of the HIV-vaccine initiative overseen by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS, told the Journal. "The results from Thailand are modest, but they're a very good start."

However, despite the news of progress towards combating HIV and AIDS, some health officials are insisting that people still get regular HIV tests to know their status since a viable vaccine on the open market may likely be several years away.

According to the United Nations, approximately 33 million people were living with HIV globally in 2007. In that same year, a reported 2 million people died from AIDS while 2.7 million more were infected.

Lab tests for HIV still best way to handle spread

The trial for the vaccine used a modified canary-pox vaccine from Sanofi Pasteur as well as a drug that was engineered using a protein found on the AIDS virus, the San Francisco Gate reported. Two subsets of the HIV were tested in the trial. Both are common in Thailand and Southeast Asia, though only one is commonly found in the U.S.

While it has shown promise, some health officials are saying the trial is causing researchers to ask more questions about a possible vaccine in the future.

Dr Alan Bernstein, executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, told the Gate that "we don't really know why and how this vaccine worked and did what it did."

"It's opened the door and it's opened up a whole lot of questions that are answerable and will be answered over the next months and years to come," Bernstein said.

Because of the uncertainty involved with the vaccine, some people who have been involved with fighting the spread of AIDS for years are urging the general public to continue getting HIV tests.

Efforts to stop spread of HIV continue

This year there was a big push for HIV testing, namely to a specific demographic as well as particular area in the country.

MTV's Get Yourself Tested campaign during National STD Awareness Month in April sparked a renewal among young people to get HIV tests.

The campaign was targeted to young people aged 25 years and younger, and was meant to reduce the number of incidences of AIDS in teenagers and young adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four teen girls in the U.S. have at least one common STD. It's also been reported that one in two sexually-active young people will contract an STD by age 25.

The campaign may have been sparked by a report that was released earlier this year in March. The research, funded by the CDC and conducted by the George Washington University School of Health and Health Services, found that 3 percent of the residents in Washington DC were living with HIV or AIDS, and that every mode of transmission was on the rise.

Shannon L. Hader, director of the District's HIV/AIDS Administration, told the Washington Post that the rate of infections in the DC area was "on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya."ADNFCR-2248-ID-19387181-ADNFCR

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