HIV vaccine expected in 10 years, medical experts say
An HIV/Aids vaccine is expected in less than 10 years as testing in humans continues.
Approximately 30 vaccine candidates are undergoing testing in humans by different researchers, the International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has said.
In a meeting preceding the International HIV Conference, IAVI’s vice president of Vaccine Design, Rick King told journalists in Washington DC that recent findings have energized researchers with tangible results about the vaccine against the pandemic.
The conference officially opened Sunday evening.
The weeklong conference is being held in the U.S. for the first time in 23 years and has attracted over 24,000 participants, who include researchers, policy makers as well as HIV/Aids activists and people infected with the virus.
In the past 23 years the U.S. was not allowed to host the conference due to its policy which blocked HIV-infected people from entering the country.
The policy was lifted two years ago by the Barack Obama administration.
According to King, studies done in Thailand using a vaccine developed from the SIV, the animal version of the HIV, have shown encouraging results.
He said that clinical research using the same vaccine is to be done in Africa in about three years before its final approval. Currently, the vaccine is being changed to suit Sub-Saharan Africa.
Currently multiple vaccine research is going on by different researchers managed by IAVI.
Today, medical experts are facing even more pressure from the need to stop the spread of the disease that has already infected over 80 million people all over the world.
King believes that, a vaccine, even if only 50% effective and has a modest coverage of 30% of the global population, would curb half the global HIV infections.
But on the flip-side, if no vaccine is found, an estimated 26.8 million new infections could occur in about 20 to 30 years, he predicts, noting that countries should realize that HIV is highly mutable.
The infection suppresses and destroys the key cells of the human immune system and researchers are looking for a vaccine which would block each of the steps of the replication and regeneration of the next viral particles.
The two steps that ensure the HIV survival are entry into the CD4 cell and the replication and regeneration of the virus into more copies of itself.
Researchers want to block entry of the virus into the human immune cell and also kill off the infected cells to ensure destruction of the virus’ next step of regeneration.
“In about ten or less years, we will know whether the vaccines are performing in people in ways that are effective…,” King said.
Two large grants to focus on the development of new vaccines were recently announced.
The grants code-named CHAVI –ID and CAVD amounting to US$200m will run over the next five or seven years. The CAVD is sponsored by the Bill and Mellinda Gates Foundation.
Most of the speakers in the initial meetings said as the world moves closer to a vaccine, emphasis should be put on increasing access to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) as a means of curbing infections.
According to Jesse Milan from the U.S.’s Black Aids Institute, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PREP) can protect an uninfected person from acquiring the virus from an infected sexual partner.
He noted that 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, 650,000 have died since the advent of the disease and 15,000 die annually because they do not access care early enough.
There are 50,000 new infections every year in the U.S., most of which are among men of colour and men who have sex with other men.
Also 28% of the African-American women have HIV.
Milan observed the need for change in policy which includes the policy of financing and that of change.
He noted that there isn’t much being talked about on the issue of young people getting infected with HIV yet a large number of young people are transiting into teenage and active sex life everyday and could get infected.
Carl Dieffenbach, from the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) called on governments to increase HIV testing as a means of increasing Aids awareness and treatment of the people who need Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).
He advised that HIV testing should be incorporated into the normal routine health system.
He said that world is targeting having at least 15 million people on HIV treatment as opposed to only eight million as it stands now.
He predicts the doubling the people on ART will guarantee significant gains in the fight against HIV and could eliminate it because transmission would be greatly curtailed.
By Anne Mugisa, The New Vision
Do you have a story or an article to publish? Please email us to email@example.com.