Tuesday, December 1, 2015

When will we have an HIV vaccine?

Today is the 1st of December, international AIDS day. The human immunodefeciency virus (HIV) is a subgroup of retrovirus (a lentivirus to be exact) that causes HIV infection and acquired immunodefeciency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition in humans in which progressive failure of our immune system allows potentially life-threatening infections and even cancers to thrive. Currently there are two types of HIV that have been characterised : HIV-1 with high virulence and high infectivity which is common globally, and HIV-2 with low virulence and accordingly low infectivity which is prelevant for West Africa. According to WHO since the beginning of the epidemic almost 78 million people have been infected with HIV and around 39 million people have died from HIV. By the end of 2013 approximately 35 million people worldwide were infected with HIV virus.

Despite of intense research existing treatments from HIV are far from being satisfying. Current advance of combined HIV treatment includes multiple antiretroviral drugs which help to keep the disease in a chronic state where it does not progress into AIDS. However any disease and in particular HIV is easier and cheaper to prevent than to treat. Currently we have preventive vaccines against such diseases as polio, chicken pox, measles, rubella and many others. We often forget how many lives these maladies took before the vaccines were developed. But what about AIDS ?