Aids Vaccine

Remember that Chris Rock bit about how there’s never going to be a cure for aids because there’s no money in it? Apparently not so much of a joke.
Sooner or latter I think we’re going to have to own up to the fact that health care is not served by the market system well.

Chris Rock is at times a genius. He is absolutely right IMHO. We certainly can land someone on the moon yet we haven’t cured anything in decades. Also, every drug they market to the public usually causes at least 10 more problem side effects that require more drugs that cause more problems and it all does very little other then string you along.

Bacterial stuff is comparitively easy to cure [with modern research and medicine], and we had vaccines for most of it by the 60’s

IIUC There has never been a vaccine for anything viral. AIDS will probably be the first, maybe 5-15 years from now. Much harder problem to solve.

Lots of diseases that were 90-100% fatal 20 years ago are now treatable, if not entirely curable, including AIDS, and many forms of cancer. Treatment for heart disease of all kinds has also gotten much better.

Lots of stuff wrong here.

Actually, just about everything except TB we have vaccines for is a virus, rather than a bacterial illness: measles, polio, smallpox, mumps, rubella, rabies. The concept of vaccination was developed with the cowpox virus, with which people were deliberately infected to prevent smallpox. Hence the name vaccine, which comes from the latin name of cowpox: vaccinia, same root as vache-- cow.

Bacterial stuff is easy to cure because (until the resistant strains evolved recently) bacteria can be knocked out with antibiotics.

AIDS would be the first retrovirus for which we have a vaccine, which isn’t that surprising, since before AIDS, it wasn’t known that there were retroviruses that would infect humans.

Despite the cancer treatments we have now, overall cancer mortality rates are nearly unchanged for the last 40 years.

Huh? Lots of vaccines target viruses, e.g., Polio, Smallpox, mumps…

antlers beat me to it.

My bad - I remembered that AIDS represented a new type of ailment that they hadn’t made vaccines for in the past - I should have looked it up.

I DID just look up cancer mortality rates to make sure I wasn’t off base there. In fact, cancer mortality has improved considerably.
>>The death rate for the 25-64 age group has declined steadily and is near the year 2000 target. Since the beginning of the initiative in 1979, the mortality rate has dropped 31 percent for this age group.<<
>>Annual Report to the Nation Finds Cancer Incidence and Death Rates on the Decline: Survival Rates Show Significant Improvement… The “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2001*” finds overall observed cancer incidence rates dropped 0.5 percent per year from 1991 to 2001, while death rates from all cancers combined dropped 1.1 percent per year from 1993 to 2001… Death rates from all cancers combined have been decreasing since the early 1990s. Death rates decreased for 11 of the top 15 cancers in men, and eight of the top 15 cancers in women.<<

Some graphs here:

Looks like cancer incidence got worse from ~1975 to 1990, but has steadily improved since then.

Wouldn’t the incidence drop be from lower smoking rates, though? I guess you’d want median time to death from diagnosis, but who knows how you adjust for better diagnosis…

Well, in theory incidence rates are probably affected by a lot of stuff:

Rise in smoking from the 20s through the 60s? Then fall-off thereafter (with a lag-effect on cancer mortality)

Overall increase in the average age of the population, and in the percentage of older people in general. Young folks get cancer at lower rates than older folks.

Better identification of cancer - my guess is that up through some point in time (40s, 60s, 70s?) not all cancers and cancer deaths were identified as such,

So cancer survivability/mortality is perhaps a better indicator than cancer incidence. But I think all of them have been improving fairly significantly in the last 10-20 years.

I had always heard the same thing, that AIDs is a virus and no viruses have ever been cured before, which is why it’s so difficult to find a cure.
I’d actually been taught that in school as well.

A quick Google search comes up with this page about ten down:
I don’t know how to make a fancy quotation box here, but they say this,

“There is no cure for HIV. HIV is a virus, and no cure has been found for any type of virus.”

They don’t make a distinction between viruses and retroviruses at all, so there’s obviously some bad information floating around.
I think alot of people have heard the same thing as I, and never bothered to doublecheck it.

A vaccine isn’t a cure.

There is a big difference between a cure and a vaccine. A cure would make a virus go away. A vaccine merely prevents you from getting infected by a virus.

Or to put it another way, a vaccine is like a condom. Condoms prevent most pregnancies, but won’t have any effect on an existing pregnancy.

That explains my confusion, in relation to this subject at least.

Modern medicine cures symptoms.

What a vaccine does is stimulate the body’s immune system so that it can deal with the corresponding virus on its own. We don’t yet know how to kill viruses by artifical means, so they have to be rooted out by the immune system. On the other hand, bacteria can be destroyed by a variety of poisons – that’s what antibiotics are.

As opposed to…?

The disease itself, Larry.

At times? It’s almost scary how often I’m reminded of one of his stand up routines just from whatever screwed up stuff is going on in the news.

Bill Gates did an interview about his charitable contributions that I saw on PBS about a year ago. One of the things that struck me is that Gates, a poster child for free markets and capitalism, said that free markets are great for a lot of things, such as invention and innovation. However they are wholly inadequate at tackling humanitarian issues, such as developing and distributing medicines and finding cures for disease. Escpecially for the poor.

It really is a failure of capitalism. You know capitalism is this wonderful thing that motivates people, it causes wonderful inventions to be done. But in this area of diseases of the world at large, it’s really let us down.

(It was with Bill Moyers. Here’s the transcript):
Interview with Gates

As long as we’re on the science which I can’t bother to Google kick, what’s an antiviral medicine?

An antiviral interferes with a virus’s life cycle, reducing the severity of the viral infection. For example:

  • AZT, the HIV antivrial, tries to mess up the virus replication process by providing infected cells with fake virus building blocks
  • antivirals for the common cold block a rhinovirus’s ability to attach itself to a cell
  • influenza antivirals try to prevent infected cells from releasing new copies of the flu virus

Let me introduce you to penicillin and chemotherapy.