At the end of February, VaxGen--a biotechnology company based in Brisbane, Calif.--announced the long-awaited test results of AIDSVAX, the first AIDS vaccine to have its effectiveness evaluated in large numbers of people. Unfortunately, the bottom line was that the vaccine didn't work. Of the 3,330 people who received AIDSVAX, 5.7 percent had nonetheless become infected with HIV within three years, a rate almost identical to the 5.8 percent seen among 1,679 individuals who received a placebo.
But intriguingly, the company reported, AIDSVAX appeared to work better among the small numbers of African- and Asian-Americans in the study. Although only 327 blacks, Asians and people of other ethnicities received the vaccine, VaxGen said it protected 67 percent of them (3.7 percent got infected as compared with 9.9 percent of controls). AIDSVAX was particularly effective among African-Americans, preventing 78 percent of the 203 individuals in the study from contracting HIV. (Only two of the 53 Asians became infected, whereas six of the 71 people classified as "other minorities" did.)
This article was originally published with the title The Race Card.