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AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition Calls for AIDS Vaccine Field to Work Together to Analyze STEP Study Data and Determine Best Course to Move Forward
Date:11/7/2007

Safety of Trial Volunteers Must Remain Paramount Concern

SEATTLE, Nov. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) released the following statement today from Executive Director Mitchell Warren in response to the release of new data from the STEP AIDS vaccine study by Merck & Co., the US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) at a public forum at the HVTN meeting today.

The data from the STEP study released today confirm that the vaccine was not effective at either preventing infection in male volunteers or at reducing viral loads in male vaccine recipients who became infected with HIV during the trial. In addition, the data suggest that the vaccine may have made some volunteers more susceptible to acquiring HIV infection. The vaccine itself does not cause HIV. This trend was specifically observed among male volunteers who had high titers of antibody to adenovirus, the cold virus that was used, in a disabled form, in the MRK-Ad5 vaccine candidate.

"These data are deeply disappointing and troubling, and raise more questions than answers for the field of AIDS vaccine. Today's discussion of the data underscores the leadership and transparency that Merck, NIAID, and HVTN continue to show in this complex and challenging time. What is clear is that the field must continue to work on this challenge and on the larger goal of finding a safe and effective AIDS vaccine.

"As much as we would like to see a clear answer in these results to whether or not the vaccine made some volunteers more susceptible to HIV infection, the reality is that there is still significant confusion about the underlying explanation for the observed effect.

"As we move forward, the work of analyzing and interpreting the data from the STEP study, and from the companion Phambili study in South Africa, will become even more difficult and even more important.

"In the
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SOURCE AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition
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