World AIDS Day is observed on 1 December every year to show support for people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), to end inequalities that lead to AIDS and to fight social stigmas created around HIV.
Identified in 1981 for the first time, HIV has claimed around 36 million lives till now and is one the deadliest public health issues. Till now, no effective cure of HIV exists and once a person gets infected, they have the infection for life. Currently, there is also no vaccine available for HIV that can prevent or treat the virus.
How do vaccines work?
Initially, a vaccine is developed after research in a laboratory and is tested on volunteers after Phase I and Phase II trials of the vaccine are carried out safely among volunteers in the laboratory.
Since, vaccines have always been proved to be the most effective means to prevent an infectious disease, the need for an HIV virus is paramount as it could save millions of lives.
Vaccines are made from small amount of weak or dead germs and help the immune system to fight infections effectively.
What is the present status of research on HIV vaccines?
The US-based National Institutes of Health is conducting research to deliver an HIV preventive vaccine and two vaccine trials called Mosaico and Imbokodo will be conducted in clinical research sites in North America, South America and among HIV negative women of sub-Saharan Africa.
Since the year 1987, more than 30 HIV candidate vaccines have been tested in countries such as United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Thailand, Cuba and many more. The results of these vaccine trials have led to information that can aid in making better vaccines.
Treatment for HIV such as Anti-retroviral therapy or ART has helped in suppressing the virus and many people have lived a long life. Other drugs such as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is also taken by HIV negative patients who are at a risk of contracting the infection.
However, an effective vaccine to help people from getting infected is still not available.
Recently, a team of researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Biomedical Innovation, Health and Nutrition, have claimed that they successfully eliminated the HIV virus in monkeys by inoculating a new vaccine and then injecting a processed HIV virus in the monkey. The researchers have said that they hope to begin clinical trials on humans within a period of five years.