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A world first: AIDS vaccine cuts the risk of HIV infection by 31 percent in large Thai study


4 Star

A world first: AIDS vaccine cuts the risk of HIV infection by 31 percent in large Thai study

Our Review Summary

This was a very nicely written piece presenting the results of the first successful AIDS vaccination trial. Using an appropriately cautious tone, this story effectively informs the reader of the vaccine’s availability, novelty and efficacy. The story also does a good job of describing the study methods and accurately points out that the same results may not be seen in the U.S. given that study took place in Thailand where HIV is spread largely through heterosexual sex. Additionally, the expert commentary puts it nicely in perspective from a public health standpoint. While the story meets many of our criteria, it could have been improved by mentioning potential harms and making it clear that this research has not yet been published, and that others have raised questions about the lack of data and details that have been released.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Since the vaccine is not available, a discussion of costs is not warranted.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The piece does a nice job of presenting the results in terms of absolute and relative risk reduction and makes it clear that the benefits of the vaccine are modest and additional research is needed.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story mentions that the vaccine cannot infect patients with HIV, but there is no further discussion of adverse effects or lack thereof. According to the International Data and Safety Monitoring Board, there were no reported safety concerns.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

While this story provides an excellent overview of the study population, methods and potential limitations in its generalizablilty, it fails to mention that the data have not been yet been published in a medical journal. Unlike published articles, this study has not gone through a rigorous review process. The Washington Post story, for example, included questions based on the lack of data and details that had been released. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


This story does not engage in disease-mongering. It was very specific about the numbers of newly infected people per year and annual estimated deaths.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


This story provides comments from those involved in the trial, as well as from independent sources.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


This story gave at least a brief historical perspective on past vaccine research.  It mentions that the latest study participants were given condoms and STI prevention counseling; however, emphasis on how a vaccine would only be part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy would have been useful.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


This story clearly states that this vaccine is not yet available and may not be for several more years. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story indicates that this is not the first attempt at an AIDS vaccine; however, the positive results from the recent trial are uNPRecedented. 

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


The story does not appear to be based on a press release.

Total Score: 7 of 9 Satisfactory


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