by Joanna Moorhead CARDINAL John O'Connor of New York, the most prominent Catholic churchman in the United States, said this week he would consider volunteering to be a human guinea pig in an' AIDS vaccine trial.
The 70-year-old cardinal, who visits AIDS patients every week, would be among the first human recipients of the vaccine. It is considered risky because it is the first to contain the whole AIDS virus, albeit a strain killed in the laboratory. Dr Brian Henderson, one of the doctors involved in the trials, said ten volunteers were being sought initially. Earlier, Archbishop Roger Mahony of Los Angeles had asked priests and nuns from his archdiocese aged 65 and older to put themselves forward for the experiments. He said doctors had specifically asked for senior citizens, and that people who were "essentially at no risk of acquiring AIDS" were being sought.
The archbishop, whose appeal was sent to 2,500 religious houses throughout California, said medical researchers were "looking for people who would want to volunteer for something that could be very risky".
"You're really looking for people who have a commitment to humankind and willingness to take risks to benefit others," he said.
It is believed about six nuns and one or two priests contacted Dr Henderson after the archbishop's appeal.
If accepted, they will be inoculated with a vaccine developed by Dr Jonas Salk, a 75-year-old scientist renowned for his work on the polio vaccine in the 1950s. A test batch of Salk's experimental polio vaccine contaminated with live viruses infected scores of children with polio in 1955, and some deaths resulted.