In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. National Institutes of Health are planning major studies in New York City and Washington, D.C., to see if better identification and treatment of HIV-positive people can help keep infection rates down across the community as a whole, Johnston said.
There was also promising news this year in terms of the search for an effective AIDS vaccine.
In October, researchers reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that a combination of two vaccines brought about a modest, 31 percent reduction in infection rates among a cohort of 16,000 young adult volunteers in Thailand who were tracked for about three years. Analysis of the trial data suggested that the vaccines' effect faded with time, however, and was less effective in those at highest risk of HIV, such as sex workers or IV drug abusers.
For these reasons, no one is calling the trial a success. However, "the reason that we think it is potentially important is that it's the first time that we've ever seen the slightest positive signal" that immunization against HIV might work, Fauci said. "So, mild as [this result] is, at least it's a step in the right direction."
Johnston agreed, and called the trial an important stepping stone to further research.
"There's going to be a lot of intensive effort looking at blood samples of the people who seem to have done well on the vaccine," she explained. "If anybody can tease out what the magic ingredients are, that will form the cornerstone of how we move forward on AIDS v
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