More than fifty thousand cases of AIDS have been reported in the United States since the disease wasfirst described in 1981. Many times this number of people are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which has been identified as the agent responsible for the illness. The seriousness of the disease, coupled with the relatively rapid spread of HIV, has fueled the effort for development of an effective vaccine.

Much is now known about the life cycle of the virus, and about its structural components. This information, and information about methods of transmission of the virus, form the basis for a rational vaccine development program. A successful program depends both on technological advances and on the political will to create a climate in which interpretable vaccine trials can be undertaken. This review will focus on some of the impediments to rapid development and licensure of an AIDS vaccine.


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