Ending AIDS: The Search for a Vaccine


Every day, 15,000 people get infected by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. All of them will eventually die. AIDS is the single greatest threat to life on earth. Yet nearly thirty years after HIV was first discovered, there have been ony two large-scale trials to test the effectivenes of potential vaccines. Ending AIDS: The Search for a Vaccine asks why an AIDS vaccine has been so elusive, what progress we are making, and what obstacles continue to stump some of the most brilliant scientists in the world. Richard Gere narrates the program. To visit the PBS web site for Ending AIDS, CLICK HERE.

Funding for Ending AIDS: The Search for a Vaccine was provided by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The program was co-produced by Kikim Media and Quest Productions.


“Ending AIDS is the hardest kind of story to tell—a story without an end. Unlike most science documentaries that celebrate a great discovery or advance, Ending AIDS is about failure—at least failure to date…It is one of the few documentaries I’ve ever seen, let alone supported, that deals honestly with the arduous and uncertain process of science. It is lucid and unblinking in its treatment of past efforts that did not bear fruit and the scientific challenges that remain. But while the outcome remains unknown—no 20/20 hindsight to guide the filmmakers—Ending AIDS manages to educate and inspire us with the dedication and determination of scientists around the world as they struggle to find a vaccine against this terrible scourge. It is intelligent, informed, risky filmmaking at its best and in my experience, a unique and compelling exemplar.”

-Doron Weber, Program Director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

“Due to the combination of a strong scientific overview of HIV vaccine development and the clear journalistic narration, we selected this film to open the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise Funders’ Forum in London last year. The film provided and excellent opportunity to open the discussion about the need for the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise’s approach to accelerate HIV vaccine research and development. The film reminds scientists and the general public alike about the human tragedy of the AIDS epidemic as well as the public health crisis that requires immediate and sustained action.”

-Helene Gayle, Director, HIV, TB & Reproductive Health, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

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“Ending AIDS is a truly impressive film that not only provides an in-depth look into the little seen world of AIDS vaccine research but improves our understanding of the importance of a continued global focus on a vaccine as part of a comprehensive response to the AIDS pandemic. As AIDS enters its 23rd year in 2006, Ending AIDS is a standard-setting documentary for the field.”

-Robert Hecht, Senior VP of Public Policy, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative

“Remarkably, the film covers 24 years of history in one compelling hour of cinema, and it does not simply tell a story; in fact, it motivates viewers to action. Whether academic scientist, industry leader, government official or a member of the general public, Ending AIDS makes a forceful case for the need for an AIDS vaccine while simultaneously showing what each of these different audiences can contribute to this search.”

-Mitchell Warren, Executive Director, AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition

“I believe Ending AIDS not only tells a riveting story extraordinarily well, but it also performs a crucial public service by informing people about the need for an AIDS vaccine and making it clear that this cannot be accomplished by scientists alone. Such support is critical to the recruitment of volunteers into the clinical trials that will be required for success. Perhaps most significantly, the film has the potential to inspire some in the next generation of researchers to devote their lives to one of the biggest scientific challenges humanity faces.”

-Margaret Johnston, Director, Vaccine and Prevention Research Program Division of AIDS/NIAID/NIH

“Ending AIDS: The Search for a Vaccine not only serves as a reminder of the great promise that an effective vaccine holds; it also brilliantly captures the essence of the scientific process by chronicling both our failures to date and the successes that continue to provide hope that a vaccine is indeed attainable…The film enabled such leading organizations as the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC), the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation to co-host a public screening at our building in Washington, D.C., where more than 150 leaders from the scientific and HIV/AIDS community and policy makers gathered to focus on vaccine research.”

-Matt James, Senior Vice President, Kaiser Family Foundation

“The film is a highly informative account of the many challenges, from scientific to political, faced in the development of a vaccine for the HIV virus. It was extremely well received at the recent meeting of the HIV Vaccine Enterprise Funders’ Forum.”

-Mark Walport, Director, Wellcom Trust

“[Ending AIDS] is one of the most effective vehicles yet created in our quest to create a more educated public who will one day be called upon to volunteer for large-scale preventive HIV vaccine trials…Ending AIDS helps to distill the science in a way that engages the public and helps them understand the truly monumental effort that is underway around the globe. It also helps to dispel the myths and misconceptions widely held by those to whom scientists will one day turn for help.”

-Michael Cover, Senior Vice President, Ogilvy

“Ending AIDS has achieved what no other tool has been able to do for me in my work—educate the public about our best hope to end the AIDS pandemic in a clear, comprehensive, understandable, and yet entertaining and attention-grabbing way…What is most remarkable is hearing from those outside the field who viewed Ending AIDS, such as my mother, who for the first time understood the importance of an AIDS vaccine and what I work towards every day. In order to find a safe and effective AIDS vaccine, we will need more than the right vaccine candidate; we will need tens of thousands of clinical trial volunteers. Ending AIDS has helped to educate the public and lay the groundwork for successful recruitment efforts.”

-Joanna Katzman, Health Communications Specialist


Brian Lowry, Variety
“Sobering and frustrating all at once, this absorbing PBS docu plays like a medical thriller, chronicling the political, economic and scientific hurdles that have obstructed efforts to develop an AIDS vaccine. Scheduled for World AIDS Day, it’s a fast-moving hour whose focus is primarily on science, without ignoring the wider issues that invariably travel hand-in-hand with a disease rightly dubbed “one of the most defiant biological enemies humanity has ever had to face.”

Kathleen Wilkinson, San Francisco Chronicle
“[This] hour-long doc dazzles with its clarity and focus [on] the complex history of vaccine efforts around the world. Looking not at treatment drugs, but just the challenges in the struggle to find a vaccine to eradicate the virus completely, the film takes us through more than 20 years of history without boring, digressing or over-moralizing — a fantastic achievement for any doc. For anyone who has any question at all about where the scientific community is in its pursuit of a breakthrough in this deadly fight, this is the film to see.”