Smallpox Vaccine and HIV: A Deadly Combination. (Science)

Article excerpt

With soldiers and health care workers receiving smallpox inoculations under President Bush's bioterror prevention program, many Americans are considering whether to receive vaccinations if they become more widely available. But people with HIV--and anyone who spends time with them--may have as much reason to fear the inoculations as they do an actual bioterror attack.

The vaccine uses a weakened--but live--version of a virus similar to smallpox to stimulate an immune system defense. Because the immune systems of HIV-positive people may not be able to fight off the effects of active pathogens, doctors say they should never get a live-virus vaccine.

According to Stephen E. Goldstone, MD, cofounder of the Web site, the vaccine's threat is so serious that even those who live with HIV-positive people should forgo the vaccination. Once a person is vaccinated, a small blister forms on the skin. During the three weeks it takes for that blister to heal, that person can pass the infection to another person via casual skin-to-skin contact. …