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Vaccines at Retrovirus Conference 2004

The 11th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections took place in San Francisco from 8-11 February and was attended by over 3,500 researchers and activists from around the world. The main focus of the annual meeting is basic science of retroviruses (a family of viruses that includes HIV) and HIV treatment and care, but this year there were also several sessions that looked at the current state of AIDS vaccine research. Researchers presented data on a variety of topics including challenges to developing vaccines that will strongly produceneutralizing antibodies (see Primer) against HIV; lessons learned from the large-scale AIDS vaccine trials to date; and how to best use the funds available for AIDS vaccine research.

Stephen Lewis, United Nations special envoy to Africa, gave a keynote address in which he said, "It is important to note that there are more potential vaccines in the pipeline than ever before." Lewis went on to say that "an AIDS vaccine is also a women's issue" since an effective vaccine would give to women "the ultimate protection from HIV infection without the male partner...having any involvement." Lewis singled out the work of IAVI and said that "much more" activity was needed from the pharmaceutical industry and government-sponsored research.