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Why it’s hard to find the HIV vaccine

By Vicky Wandawa

Added 25th October 2018 01:01 PM

The world has waited over 21 years already for the vaccine, and still has to wait longer, according to the lead researchers at the ongoing HIVR4P.

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The world has waited over 21 years already for the vaccine, and still has to wait longer, according to the lead researchers at the ongoing HIVR4P.

The world has waited over 21 years already for the vaccine, and still has to wait longer, according to the lead researchers at the ongoing HIVR4P.

The only global scientific meeting in Spain, Madrid, where more than 1,400 researchers, policy makers, advocates and 25 outstanding journalists from around the world have gathered has been told there is  still a long way.

 “It’s a scientific problem,” Anthony Fauci, an American immunologist who has made substantial contributions to HIV/AIDS research and other immune-deficiencies, both as a scientist and as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told New Vision.

Similarly, Jose Alcamí, Conference Co-chair, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Spain told the journalists, “We do not have a vaccine yet, in this conference, we will not communicate anything about a proven vaccine. The reason is that HIV is different from other viruses and so the classical approaches and strategies, do not work with this virus.”

 

Fauci explains that for the development of vaccines in preventable diseases such as small pox, polio, measles, hepatitis, the scientists used the natural infection as a proof of concept.

They confirmed that when someone gets infected with polio, small pox, measles, even though there is some morbidity and mortality, at the end of the day, most of the people recover and they have an immune response that contains the virus.

“So there is proof that the body is capable of making a good immune response against these difficult diseases. With HIV unfortunately, that is not the case, as the body does not make an adequate protective response against natural infection.

“And when the body does not make a natural good response against natural infection, it is scientifically much more difficult to develop a vaccine that would do better than what natural infection does,” the researcher explains.

Nonetheless there are two HIV vaccine candidates in large trials. One is called HVTN 702 or Uhambo. It will enroll 5,400 South African men and women. Uhambo means “a journey” in Xhosa, one of South Africa’s official languages. Atleast 12 strains of HIV exist in the world. HVTN 702 is testing a vaccine designed to prevent clade C, the most common HIV clade in southern Africa.

A second trial is called HPX2008/HVTN 705 or Imbokodo, the word for “rock” in isiZulu. In a well-known South African proverb, “rock” refers to women’s strength and value in their communities. This trial will enroll 2,600 women in five countries across sub-Saharan Africa. In this region, more women than men are getting HIV. The test vaccine in the Imbokodo trial is designed to protect people from more than one strain of HIV.

As the world awaits the vaccine, Fauci advises that general population should do all they can do to prevent infection.

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