There are more than 37 million people suffering from HIV. It is an immunodeficiency virus that causes the same name disease. Many treatments are available for prevention and treatment of HIV but there is no vaccine for HIV till the date.
There are many approaches to take a control over HIV, many of them are preventive but there is none, which is considered as “vaccine”.
What does a vaccine do?
The target of a vaccine is to boost the immune system to defeat the virus on its attack. The HIV virus is extremely intelligent due to which it shows high adaptability to any change. This change is so drastic that it eventually becomes unrecognizable. This is the main reason despite all the efforts; there is no vaccine for HIV.
Another preventive method for HIV is that a person at high risk of HIV may daily take a pill to help prevent an infection. This method is called PrEP but even this is not 100% effective.
Overall these years, scientists have developed vaccines for various diseases for example typhoid, measles, influenza, smallpox and others. HIV vaccine development projects have taken so much money, but there is no result to tell.
Development of HIV vaccine
It’s been decades, even since the discovery of this virus that scientists are working on its vaccine. This is a long time and still, there is no good news. Normally it takes a long time to investigate a virus and develop its vaccine.
For example, poliovirus was identified back in 1908 but its vaccine was approved in 1955.
Why is HIV vaccine such a problem?
Developing a vaccine for HIV is very difficult for the following reasons.
- It replicates rapidly.
- There is not one infection of HIV but many and they keep on forming.
- HIV virus is so clever that it learns the way of outwitting the immune system.
Researchers are trying to find how your immune system may help in preventing in HIV infection. Despite all the challenges, they are hopeful to find new ways in HIV treatment and prevention.
Types of vaccines
There are general types of vaccines.
A preventive vaccine will help your immune system to identify and fight against the HIV even before its virus attacks you. These types of vaccines are helpful for people who are HIV negative. As vaccines don’t contain a living virus, any chance of it infecting you with HIV is zero.
The only drawback is that it may boost the immune system to create antibodies that appear in any blood test, this is a false positive result. A false positive result should not be confused with a positive case of HIV.
A therapeutic vaccine is helpful in controlling; it may also delay the progression of the disease. These vaccines work by making your immune system extra efficient to find and kill the HIV infected cells of the body. This way these vaccines prevent and limit the HIV to replicate it.
Will there ever be a treatment for HIV?
The experts believe that there will be a cure for HIV soon. For now, scientists are working on two types of treatments.
- functional cure; it suppresses the number of HIV virus in the body that will make you sick.
- sterilizing cure; it’s a treatment in which HIV Virus is eradicated from the body, completely that includes the hidden cancer cells too.
Note that this discussion is about finding a treatment for HIV and not AIDS. AIDS represents a set of symptoms that appear after viral contamination. There is no natural cure for HIV or AIDs that is medically verified.
Approaches to reach an HIV cure
Following are some approaches that researchers are aiming to flush the virus out of the body.
- Gene editing which targets the immune cells and changes them. this way HIV can not more infect them
- Immune modulation that is a permanent change in the natural immune system to fight against the HIV.
- Stem cell transplants that eliminate a person’s viral infected immune system and with the help of a donor, completely replace it. This is the most complicated, risky and expensive approach.
For now, there is plenty of promising in these areas but yet there is no permanent cure or vaccine development on the horizon.