Vaccines for HIV: The Right Step Forward

“Prevention is better than cure. Especially when there is no cure”!

As the world celebrates World HIV Vaccine Awareness Day on May 18, 2019, it’s time to understand the significance of this day. AIDS/HIV Vaccine Day is observed each year to recognize the many efforts of the people working towards the development of a vaccine to prevent AIDS. This day also provides an opportunity to educate society about the importance of preventive HIV vaccine research.

Why do we need a vaccine for HIV?

Today we have live-saving HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) available. These medications can help HIV-positive people to stay healthy for many years. This also reduces their chance of transmitting HIV to their partners.
However, we need powerful HIV prevention tools to eradicate this epidemic globally, which are widely accessible.

Here comes the role of “Vaccines”. Historically, vaccines have been the most effective means to prevent and eradicate any infectious diseases. They are safe, cost-effective, and easily accessible.

What is a preventive HIV vaccine?

A preventive AIDS vaccine can be given to healthy people who do not have HIV, with the goal of preventing HIV infection in the future. This vaccine would immunize the person to effectively fight HIV in case of exposure to the virus.
Although there is no preventive HIV vaccine now that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), research is on.

What is a therapeutic HIV vaccine?

An effective therapeutic HIV vaccine could help prevent HIV from advancing into AIDS. Thus, replacing the daily use of medicines, and eliminating HIV from the body completely.
A therapeutic HIV vaccine goal is to strengthen the immune response to HIV-positive people. Thus, this vaccine can slow down the progression of HIV infection, and eliminate all HIV from the body gradually.

Current research on preventive vaccines

Over the last three decades, the treatment options for HIV have improved. But HIV medicines can have side effects, can be expensive, and are hard to access in some countries.

Some of the areas of research:

1. Safety of preventive vaccines.
2. Cost-effectiveness of the vaccines.
3. Life-long protection against HIV infection.
4. Immune responses in people receiving the preventive vaccine.
5. Different ways of vaccination, such as needle and syringe versus a needle-free device.

On this HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, it’s our duty to recognize the work of the thousands worldwide who are working towards this goal.

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