After years of disappointing trial and error, a vaccine shows success in a clinical trial in preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS. Granted, the trial shows a less than one-third success rate. Compared to the 85 percent success rate of the new H1N1 swine flu vaccine, that’s quite low. Yet it clearly is the most promising success to date , and we can only hope that it soon leads to a workable vaccine that that immunizes against the HIV/AIDS virus. But what until then? Each year, in the United States alone there are 1.1 million people living with HIV and it is estimated that someone in the U.S. is infected every 9 and a half minutes. Even under the best conditions, the optimistic view is that it will take at least three years before a HIV vaccine is available in the United States. What can be done to help those who have the disease now? Is the American public ready to act?
Actually, a lot–though it seems most Americans remain unaware of this. As a researcher for Public Agenda, a non-profit non-partisan research and public engagement organization in New York City, I have had the opportunity to study both what could be done today to reduce the effects of HIV/AIDS transmission and increase treatment and to see what the public thinks of these ideas. The gap between the solutions that HIV/AIDS experts push for and what the public understands about how to address the AIDS epidemic is wide indeed.