Basically, what they want to do is put a gene encoding an immunoadhesin into an adeno-associated virus.
The virus pokes the genetic material into your cells like a tiny, virus-shaped finger (thus the gene transfer), causing your cells to make the immunoadhesin proteins, which are custom-made to bind to HIV and block it from infecting cells, a bit like coating a guy with cheap cologne to block him getting laid.
The research has been done by the Children’s Hospital of Philidelphia and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, who have been working on it for the last ten years. On an aside, what a dodgy name for a kids hospital: Children’s Hospital of Philidelphia, the first time I read it I could have sworn it said Children’s Hospital of Pedophilia – and I was shocked. Shocked and appalled! If I had kids I wouldn’t send them there, they should seriously consider a name change.
Anyway, they have already tried it on monkeys using the Simian Immunodeficiency virus (SIV, the monkey version of HIV, because the H stands for Human). They’ve had some excellent success – they injected monkeys sans vaccine with SIV and they were all infected, 66% died from AIDS complications (seriously, how do people get ethics approval for this shit?). Then they did the same to monkeys who had been given the vaccine a month prior and most of them didn’t catch SIV, and none of them died from AIDS. So it seems effective, although a bit morally gray for my liking.
Ah, but there are always alerts about new vaccines and improvements and cures and stuff for HIV – there’s a lot of research going into it, and it’s a hot topic for obvious reasons. The fact is, HIV mutates so damn quickly, being that it’s a single-stranded RNA virus, that it’s really freaking hard to vaccinate against. It’s like the flu, another single-stranded RNA blob of destruction which mutates at a rate that we just can’t keep up with. Hell, there’s another hot topic at the moment, swine flu. The old H1N1 back from 1918 to kick some butt in Round Two, or just to create pandemics panic… we’re still waiting on the results on that.