A trial involving 16,000 volunteers in Thailand, funded by Washington to the tune of 100 million dollars, has produced praise for the Thai health authorities.
After years of controversy & criticism from prominent US scientists, the vaccine produced appears to be the first to protect people from the infection.
The results showed that it cut the risk of infection by 31.2 % among the 16,402 volunteers over a 3 year period.
In a country of 67 million people, with an active sex industry in both the heterosexual & homosexual societies, Thailand’s battle against a major epidemic started 20 years ago.
However after a major AIDS education & prevention campaign in the 1990´s lead by "Mr. Condom" family planner-turned Public Health Minister, Meechai Viravaidya, the number of infections has since reduced to 20,000 annually from an astounding figure of 140,000 in 1991.
Free health check-ups were made available to sex workers, men were discouraged from visiting prostitutes and condom usage in Bangkok's brothels rose from 15 percent in the early 1990s to 98 percent by 2000.
Infection rates fell dramatically and the program remains a major success in disease prevention among health experts, although numbers have shown a slight increase in the last few years among high risk groups, such as gay and bisexual men.
Around 610,000 people in Thailand are now living with AIDS, according to UNAIDS.
"We are still strengthening a very strong platform," said Punnee Pitisuttithum, head of the HIV/AIDS research unit at Bangkok's Mahidol University, which has been involved in vaccine trials since 1994. "Before this trial, we had many disappointments but with this result, we see some light at the end of the tunnel."
Unedited story originally by Reuters.