By Mark Mulligan, MD
Since the mid-1990s, thousands of patients with HIV/AIDS have been successfully treated with combinations of drugs known as “highly active antiretroviral therapy.” In many cases, these drugs have turned a disease that used to be a sure death sentence into a treatable, chronic condition.
Unfortunately, in spite of widespread efforts to prevent HIV, 33 million people around the world are infected, and in the U.S. alone the CDC estimates that about 56,000 persons are newly infected with HIV each year. Since therapy does not cure HIV, every new infection means a person must be treated for life with costly medications.
For this reason, the world desperately needs an HIV vaccine. Historically, vaccines have been our most effective weapons against infectious diseases. Unfortunately, over the past five years, two large clinical trials of HIV vaccines have failed to demonstrate efficacy of the candidate being tested, leaving many to wonder if we should simply give