My fellow Americans.
If the 21st century is to be the century of biology.
Let us make an AIDS vaccine.
Its first great Triumph.
That’s our first black President Bill Clinton.
Those are Toni Morrison’s words.
Okay, just Google it.
It’s June, 1997, and President Clinton is giving a commencement speech at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, and he’s got quite a big announcement to make but they let us commit ourselves to developing an AIDS vaccine within the next decade.
Americans weren’t used to hearing their president makes such a call to action about AIDS or the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
It had been recognized as a disease for over 15 years by this point and had already infected over 11 million people around the world, but there hadn’t been an operation warp speed style push for an AIDS vaccine.
So Clinton publicly calling for one that held a lot of weight.
And then a year later.
Good evening, the US Food and Drug Administration.
Gave the go-ahead today for the widest human testing yet of an experimental AIDS vaccine.
This is a whole new approach on June 3rd, 1998 just 23 years ago.
This week AIDS vaccine vaccine has zero for made history.
It became the first potential AIDS, vaccine to reach the final stage of testing before approval.
It was a very different time than the one we’re living in now, but In this familiar expert weighed in with his signature cautious neutrality.
It would be Folly for me to say I’m optimistic that this is going to work and equally.
So, would it be for me to say, oh, this definitely is not going to work.
We don’t know.
That one’s for you fauci.
Hive from gimlet media.
This is not passed it a show about the stories.
We can’t quite leave behind.
I’m Simone polenin.
We take a moment from that.
Very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.
We’re going to break down why we still don’t have a vaccine for AIDS or going to take a look at the science.
So you can call me Doc Tres, but we’re also going to take a deeper look at the narrative surrounding that pandemic because it has a huge bearing on how people were treated.
And I’m not just talking medically that’s coming up.
So not to flex but I’ve never had chickenpox.
And I’m not saying that to be like, I’m not like other girls.
I’m different because I’m actually quite a lot, like millions of other girls.
The chickenpox vaccine came around when I was a baby and these days kids don’t really get Chickenpox or smallpox or polio or any of that stuff and we have vaccines to thank today.
Humans live almost twice as long as we did a hundred years.
To go and we’re protected against all these viruses that used to kill millions of people a year in our Public Health.
Arsenal vaccines are the big guns or maybe more accurately.
The tiny little guns injected into our bodies supercharging, Our immune system into a mighty disease-fighting Army.
So when a new infectious disease comes onto the scene like covid-19, we turn to vaccines to slow the spread or eliminate it entirely.
In 1981, AIDS, was a newly recognized infectious disease.
There were early clusters of cases, mostly among gay men.
So, people started calling it gay cancer in these early years authorities.
Didn’t know how it was spread, or even what exactly was causing it.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, then in 1984 Reagan Era Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler called a press conference.
First the probable cause of AIDS has been found a variant of a known human cancer virus.
We now have a blood test for AIDS with a blood test.
We can identify researchers.
Figured out that a virus was causing AIDS eventually dubbed as you know, HIV the An immunodeficiency virus at the same press conference Heckler set a goal.
She wanted to develop an AIDS vaccine and start testing it within two years.
They ended up doing it in three.
The first HIV vaccine trials in the United States, came about in 87, over the years, a few more took place in the US and abroad, but the first one to actually reach phase, 3 trials, the final crucial stage of large-scale human.
It’s down to the wire for the biotech firm facts.
Jen, the only company to bring the testing of an AIDS vaccine to its final stage.
That’s our gal AIDS vaccine, efficacy Rosie Row for today’s approval by the FDA to begin testing of an AIDS.
Vaccine is the most promising sign yet.
That people may one day be immunized against the disease.
The vaccine was developed after 17 years of research for this final stage over 5,000 volunteers.
Is agreed to test the vaccine over the course of several years.
The participants were people with an elevated risk of Contracting.
The virus most were white gay men and some women predominantly black and Latina many of whom had HIV positive Partners.
Measure of success is very straightforward.
Do the individuals who get the vaccine have less HIV infection than those that don’t for a vaccine against any disease.
It’s a big deal to make it to this stage. for hiv-aids, it was even more so because it’s an especially challenging disease to create a vaccine for The way vaccines typically work.
Is that a small amount of a virus watered down enough for the immune system to handle is injected into the body.
When the immune system attacks, that small amount of the virus.
It creates antibodies.
It, learns how to recognize the virus.
So it can fight off any amount of it in the future, but you can’t actually do that.
With HIV previous efforts to create a vaccine have been thwarted by the viruses complexity and unique ability to evade the immune system.
That’s because of the sneaky ways HIV behaves in the body.
HIV sits in a quiescent mode in protected, parts of the body, like, lymph nodes, for example, and the immune response doesn’t kill all the HIV, because a lot of its hiding out.
I spoke with dr.
Stan, Berman, and Dean of Yale School of Public Health.
He’s an infectious disease, epidemiologist, say that three times fast and at the time of AIDS vaccine, He headed up the AIDS vaccine trials, branch of the National Institute of allergy and infectious diseases.
Sten says, your body can’t fight off a virus.
It can’t see, there is an immune cell called the T helper cell, and he helped her cell is one of the most vital cells in the human body to fight off Invaders.
And that’s the cell that HIV infects.
It goes into the very cell that’s designed to find it in a a tacit no offense, but it’s pretty effed up.
How this virus operates?
It spreads between people through certain bodily, fluids, like blood, semen or breast milk at then hijacks these very important immune system.
T-cells, rendering them useless.
It takes control of their DNA creates copies of itself and takes off into the bloodstream where it keeps hijacking.
More of these important immune cells.
How is a vaccine supposed to stimulate?
Protection with a pernicious, little virus like that.
So it’s been devilishly difficult to figure out a vaccine strategy against HIV because of this characteristic of it getting into the human being and very quickly evading.
The immune system on top of the way HIV eludes the immune system.
It also mutates like crazy quickly changing its genetic code.
So, Or vaccine developers.
It’s essentially a moving Target.
But if they could crack the vax, they could save millions of lives in the phase 3 trials for AIDS vaccine.
Two-thirds of the participants were given a series of seven injections over three years while the other third were given the same number of a placebo.
Then in 2003.
The results were published the u.s.
Biotechnology company called vax.
Jen had conducted the first major study of an AIDS vaccine.
Today, they published ABC’s, Ned Potter on the disappointing results.
The vaccine was called AIDS vaccine after thousands of volunteers and hundreds of millions of dollars.
It was official AIDS.
Vaccine vaccine 004 had failed.
AIDS facts, didn’t produce enough of an immune response to justify approval.
The people who got the vaccine during the trials.
Basically, had the same immunity as those who had taken the placebo.
That’s to say the vaccine was about, as effective as taking.
Now, 23 years into the epidemic.
I think the real tragedy is that this is the first vaccine that is going through wide, scale, testing the future research will continue.
That’s the story of the failed.
AIDS vaccine seems straightforward.
And you disease shows up scientist.
Try to fix it.
They fall short and go back to the drawing board.
If you’re only looking at the clinical results, that is the story, but these researchers weren’t just up against the complicated science.
They were up against a slew of other interests, political interests, economic, interests, cultural and trusts.
And unfortunately, The people caught in the middle.
We’re the ones who should have been at the center of attention.
The people with HIV people.
Like Richard, I went to my doctor who I often saw regularly for sexually transmitted disease checkups.
We want to be responsible, you know, and I said to him, you know, am I going to die?
To understand the full story of AIDS vaccine.
Let’s take off our lab coats and goggles and step into the real world.
Pat’s after the break.
Welcome back before the break.
You heard the story of how AIDS vax vacuums zero zero for the most promising.
AIDS vaccine of its time failed, but vaccine development doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
So what was going on in the broader culture?
And what was it like from the perspective of someone who actually had AIDS?
We’re going back to the 80s to tell another version of this story.
But this time we’re going to look at what was happening outside of the lab and our first stop.
Is the Big Apple I’ve lived in Manhattan?
Your grades Village in New York City for the last 42 years.
I’m still in the same apartment.
That’s Richard Berkowitz.
He’s a writer and an activist and I’m assuming pays the lowest run in New York City.
He co-wrote a booklet called how to have sex in an epidemic.
The story of the AIDS crisis is also his story.
When Richard moved to Greenwich Village in 1978, he found a thriving queer Community.
It was something he could only dream of as a kid in New Jersey coming into the city.
As a teenager might see gay men kissing on the street and just that alone was life-changing, the notion that there was a place where gay men all different backgrounds, where they didn’t have to hide who they were and they were Shame beaten.
They were was absolutely life-changing.
Richard settled into a life in the village.
He studied at NYU for a while, but had to drop out because he couldn’t afford it.
He started sex work to make some extra money.
Thank leather whips chains, Rihanna SNM vibes.
Most of it was an actual sex.
It was more about psychological fantasies.
Can I learn so much about all the different ways that people can experience and express their sexuality?
Then suddenly 8 started to appear.
These were the early days before people were even using the term AIDS.
Richard watched as many of his friends started to develop rare and mysterious illness has otherwise young and healthy.
People were getting very sick and dying.
In the media, they talked about it.
Like it was a lifestyle disease.
The lifestyle of some male homosexuals has triggered, an epidemic of a rare form of cancer. like I mentioned earlier most of what was known was that the disease was spreading quickly among clusters of gay men, but also sex workers and people who used intravenous drugs, most of these people that are they’re not fit the not human beings that they have emotional problems, instigators of examined, the habits of homosexuals for clues that I was in the fast lane at one time in terms of the way that I live my life and now I’m not And then in the summer of 1981, Richard started to notice his lymph nodes were swollen.
His doctor urged him to get a blood test and a biopsy.
I said have a grand could out of my neck.
I was bored of Phi and he said the only way to know if you have something and like have something like what the tests revealed Richard had a number of health concerns including hepatitis A Hepatitis B and a viral infection.
These are well the classic symptoms of the early onset of AIDS and I basically went to bed for three days and was convinced I was dying.
The Centers for Disease Control and prevention had officially labeled a IDs and epidemic in the fall of 82.
Reporters were looking for more information from the government.
But as you’ll hear in this next exchange between a reporter named, Lester kinsolving, and Deputy White House.
Press Secretary Larry speaks, they weren’t getting much the reporter speaks first president have any reaction to the announcement?
Disease Control of the latter that a IPS is now an epidemic of 600 over 600 cases.
It’s known as gay plague.
It’s a pretty serious thing.
That one in every three people that get this have died.
And I wonder if the president is aware of, I don’t have it or you do you didn’t answer my question.
How do you know?
I don’t know anything about it last year, but I don’t think so.
I don’t think they’ve been no personal experience here.
Lester patient suffered from a IDs.
I thought I heard you on the state department over there when you stay over there.
Well, I put it house times last year.
I hope so.
This tape is hard to listen to, but it’s not surprising.
I mean, Ronald Reagan, himself refused to even say the word AIDS in public for years and this dismissive and derogatory attitude wasn’t just coming from the White House.
That sentiment had permeated homosexuality is a Us in California, Republican William, dannemeyer leads a group of conservative Republicans who hope to make AIDS.
A political issue to prohibit those with AIDS from working in health care to make it a felony for those in an AIDS high-risk group to knowingly donate blood and to prohibit children with AIDS from attending school in New York City.
The good news that aids may be leveling off in the gay.
Community is tempered for some by a new fear that this virus could spread to straight America.
This narrative around AIDS had a real impact on the research being done.
Scientists at the CDC complained that funding was inadequate, which was hampering their progress.
They only got their first federal dollars when it was coupled with toxic shock syndrome and legionnaires disease and a larger Public Health Emergency, trust fund and in 1983 memo one, CDC staff or wrote that the lack of funding, presumably deepened, the invasion of the disease into the American population.
By the end of 1984, there had been nearly 8,000 AIDS cases and over 3500 AIDS, deaths in the u.s.
It’s around this time that Richard first heard about the possibility of an AIDS vaccine.
Do you remember like when you heard the news of a possible AIDS backs?
What do you remember your reaction to that?
I’ve become cynical about vaccines because I’m 1984 when?
Reagan’s secretary of Health, Margaret Heckler Elvis, big press conference, declaring of the cause of AIDS have been discovered.
She concluded by saying that we should have a vaccine in wanted years.
This press conference Richards, talking about.
It’s the same one.
We told you about at the top of the show.
When Heckler announced that ambitious goal to start a vaccine trial within two years.
Richard’s doctor told him not to get his hopes up, that, this is how the game was played.
This is how money.
This is how the funding gets released.
This is how you have to talk in public to the corporations and the government institutions that have the funds to get money released.
And it wasn’t that they didn’t want to get a vaccine.
It’s that you’ve got to be a Salesman, and you’ve got to sell things and so they sold it.
But Richard says, when you sell a promise, you can’t deliver on, you.
Don’t just disappoint people.
At risk, you could be putting them in even more danger.
You raised a lot of people’s hopes with no basis for doing it.
Oh my God, that could be the next energy years.
You know, I’m going to be okay.
Maybe I don’t need safe sex and nothing came out of it in two years.
And then in three years, another company came out and it out, press releases, had press conferences.
There was some institution or business, you know, coming forward, raising people so that they have the lead And some research that’s going to produce the HIV vaccine and none of it went anywhere over.
The next decade, the public narrative around.
AIDS started to shift, little by little AIDS.
Activists were doing a lot of work on the ground.
Some were spreading resources and information raising awareness through events, like World AIDS, day, some were actively, pushing back against the misinformation being spread about the Infectious disease like that.
You could get it from swimming in a public pool or using a public restroom, others were protesting in the streets, fighting against discrimination and lack of action from the government.
Meanwhile a series of very public stories captured the Public’s attention, starting with the death of Hollywood.
Heartthrob Rock, Hudson in 1985.
I’m Roger Grimsby here.
Now, the news actor, Rock Hudson dead.
His year-long battle with AIDS at an end.
Was 59 Hudson died quietly in his hand white?
The Indiana teenager who gained widespread.
Celebrity support from Hollywood in his fight against AIDS died yesterday.
In an Indianapolis because of the HIV virus that I have attained.
I will have to retire from the Lakers today.
NBA superstar Magic Johnson came out as HIV positive in 1991.
After the death of teenager Ryan, White AIDS was moving from the fringes of society, to the more mainstream during this time.
AIDS also continued to spread outside of the US, but especially across sub-Saharan Africa, where by 1993 as many as nine million.
People were infected with HIV.
As for Richard.
He had managed to stay relatively.
Healthy, since he tested positive in the 80s, but by 95, he was starting to see his health deteriorate fast.
My blood counts began to plummet and I just thought, well, I made it to 40 years old.
Maybe this is all.
I’m going to get.
I had my living will made up join up and I just thought this is it.
But in late 1995, they started opening up study sites.
To give people this new protease inhibitor.
Protease Inhibitors were an experimental new drug treatment for HIV.
Richard got enrolled in a study and began taking them.
My blood count started jumping back towards the normal range.
And in two months, my blood counts were close to normal.
I felt reborn these drugs are able to stop or slow the rate at which HIV makes copies of itself in the body.
They basically stopped HIV from It wasn’t the perfect solution in the early days.
Some of these meds had really intense side effects, then they were complicated to take, but it really felt like they were saving people’s lives within a year.
The New York Times, Sunday magazine, published an article by Andrew Sullivan AIDS.
Is it over?
And what it really meant was, if you’re welcome people and white people, it was we now had a manageable disease that could be controlled by medications if you had health care, if you had health insurance.
By the late 90s Aid, stopped being an immediate death sentence to those with access the wealthy, the famous, the insured.
And this brings us back to Bill Clinton’s announcement at Morgan State University.
He was pushing for a vaccine within the context of all of this medications were already starting to save people’s lives.
So calling to focus efforts on a vaccine, people felt like it was counterproductive part of the president’s proposal is to take 30 to 50.
NIH researchers from existing programs and reassign them to vaccine research that Drew immediate criticism from AIDS activists, who fear resources will be taken away from the search for a cure that leaves us with the real possibility that we could be robbing Peter to pay Paul.
So when the AIDS vaccine vaccines are all zero for trials came around the following year in 98.
Richard was over it.
It was like, oh no, here we go again.
We were desperate for something.
Hoping it would work.
Researchers are working on a dozen other potential AIDS vaccines.
Next time they pray, they will do better in the years since AIDS facts.
There have been multiple attempts at an AIDS vaccine and they’ve all failed, but the science is ongoing moderna.
The makers of one of the covid-19 jobs as sending their HIV vaccine and Phase one trials later this year and when it comes to drugs there have been revolutionary new meds, like prep a daily pill that prevents transmission up to 99% But a vaccine would still be a game changer.
Especially Richard says in communities, that may not have great access to meds.
There are still tens of thousands of people in rural America, where Hospital in health care has been decimated by budget cuts, people stuck in certain prisons are Night, HIV medication.
They’re immigrants who don’t have access to health care who get infected with HIV.
There are people that health insurance, who live really horribly impoverished lives.
People are still getting infected and people are still dying of AIDS.
We don’t always see the whole picture.
The HIV/AIDS crisis continues, the continues in the gay community, and the trans community that continues in Rural America and across parts of Africa.
It continues among people who use intravenous drugs AIDS still claims around 700,000 lives per year.
In some ways.
We’ve come a long way from the days of the giggling.
White House, Press briefing room, but the stigma implanted in the culture from the very beginning, it remains in many ways.
Is celebrities like Billy Porter and Jonathan Van Ness.
Have publicly come out as HIV positive in an effort to reduce that stigma that they’ve shared that this was after years of agonizing over the decision.
I wonder if there’s a lesson will take from a universal experience, like covid that we don’t seem to have taken from the 40 years and counting AIDS.
Pandemic, ending a crisis for some is not enough and our comfort with the loss of certain people.
I hope we now have the fortitude to confront that.
Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp.
Media, next week.
We’ve got a story about a pitcher who throws the game of his life.
While tripping on LSD.
What’s wrong with you?
Ask them highs of Georgia price.
This episode was produced by Kinsey Clark and Sarah Craig.
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