Friday, March 27, 1998 Published at 03:57 GMT
'Fighter' blood cells raise Aids vaccine hope
HIV is destroyed more effectively if there are more white blood cells in the blood
British scientists have identified blood cells in the human immune system that fight back against HIV, the virus that causes Aids.
The research, reported in the journal, Science, is in its early stages but scientists at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford believe they have made a real breakthrough.
The cells identify and destroy infected cells, killing the virus at the same time.
Researchers have shown that although the virus usually wins in the end, the more fighter cells there are, the more effectively it is destroyed.
Human trials are some years away and experts say although this discovery is important, it is just one of a number of avenues being explored in the fight against the disease.
Rapid test means prompt treatment
Meanwhile, in the United States, government health officials say new rapid tests for the HIV virus could help thousands more cases of infection to be detected.
They say the tests now commonly used, while more precise, can take weeks to process and that many people who are tested never return to find out their results.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 8,200 more people a year would learn they were HIV-positive if a commercially available 15-minute test was used at publicly funded sites.
Aids awareness campaigners believe this would mean more people have access to prompt education and treatment.
"Most people either don't want to or are afraid to deal with it unless they become sick," said Tony Braswell, executive director of AID Atlanta.
"If you can tell someone while they are sitting there, talking with a counsellor, you could get a head start with them and tell them that their life is not over."