AIDS Slips the Noose Again

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GENEVA: Scientists in the battle against AIDS have heard mostly good news this week at the 12th World AIDS Conference in Geneva -- but Wednesday the deadly virus again served notice that it is more than equal to the fight. A San Francisco man has a strain of AIDS that resists six of the 11 retrovirus-fighting drugs currently available, including -- and this is the scary part -- protease inhibitors, which are supposed to prevent the AIDS virus from being transmitted.

"Protease inhibitors are the cornerstone of our HIV therapy," Dr. Frederick Hecht of the University of California and San Francisco General Hospital told the conference. "People had hoped that PIs would be significant enough to make it difficult or impossible for the virus to be transmitted." Sadly, this patient, part of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicates otherwise. It is yet another reminder to scientists that a cure for AIDS still dances well beyond their reach -- and that a vaccine, now more than ever, is the field's Holy Grail.