Is There a Vaccine for HIV? How Can We Miss This?

HIV – Also known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus, has jailed humankind for more than 35 years.

HIV is a sexually transmitted infection1 (STI) disease that spreads when coming into contact with infected blood. Otherwise, there are numerous factors by which HIV can be transmitted. For example- genetic or biological, say from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

Another term that rises from HIV is AIDS, formerly known as Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This is a chronic, death-conditioning disease that straightway affects one’s immunity and overall health of the body.

HIV cannot be treated without HIV medicines. Therefore, one needs to consume proper medications to energize the immune system2.

Is there a Vaccine for HIV?

Put simply, No. According to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), scientists and researchers have not yet produced an effective HIV vaccine.

Is there a vaccine for HIV
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Knowingly HIV was first discovered in 1984, after which the U.S.A Health Department ensured to discover an HIV vaccine right after two years.

However, it has been almost 38 years, and we are still struggling. Scientists have discovered that most of the vaccine against HIV invented is covered with sugar molecules which is not an immunity booster factor for individuals3. Therefore, releasing such vaccines can be harmful to people.

HIV vaccine is considered with certain health factors and cellular immune responses to build antibodies against HIV. The problem still goes on with several other factors and the same question still persists.

What are the Challenges to the HIV infection Vaccine?

It is very challenging to accurately develop a vaccine for HIV because it is quite a different disease compared to others. It doesn’t follow the same approach triggered for other types of vaccine research. However, is there a vaccine for HIV? If not, then why? Therefore, it is understandable to have certain obstacles in the path.

Following are some of the reasons:

1. The immune system is not that affected by HIV infection

The immune system is known to be the one to fight against foreign bodies. However, in the case of HIV, they are ineffective in doing so. They might slow down the effect caused by HIV. However, it may not kill or finish the infection.

2. Vaccines are typically made to test the reaction of HIV Patients

Knowingly, almost none of the people have recovered after contracting HIV. However, these vaccines were typically made to examine people’s reactions.

3. Vaccines fight against disease, but infection?

HIV is just an infection unless and until the individual steps into the severe stage. However, vaccines are made to fight against the infection to stop it from converting into a disease. But talking about HIV, it hides in the person’s DNA so it becomes difficult to find it by the vaccine.

Therefore, we can say that it can take much time to discover HIV variants inside the body and treat them with a vaccine. Because HIV hides in CD4 lymphocytes cells.

4. Can weakened HIV viruses help in Vaccine development?

Did you know? Most preventive HIV vaccines are made with killed or weakened viruses. But, killing or weakening HIV is not efficient in helping the immune system response in the body. However, live HIV viruses are simultaneously risky to use in one’s body.

5. Most Vaccines majorly attend those viruses that enter the body through the respiratory or gastrointestinal systems

The two common transmission types of infection or disease are either respiratory or gastrointestinal systems. Therefore, scientists and researchers have low experience protecting and dealing with such viruses. However, little success is seen in preventing HIV infection that enters genetically into the blood.

6. Vaccines are experiments on Animals

Such experiments are tested to ensure the safety and work performance of the vaccine in humans. Therefore, it is first tested in animal models. However, for the preventive HIV vaccine, it is likely unsure which animal will be the best for HIV vaccine experiments.

7. HIV transmutes rapidly

A vaccine always behaves in a particular form to finish the infection from the body. But what if the virus changes its behavior? It becomes difficult for the vaccine to wisely target the virus in such a situation. Therefore, there can be chances that we get no results in the body.

Is there a vaccine for HIV
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Types of Tested HIV Vaccines Found to Date

  • Peptide vaccines– These were the tiny protein substances used to examine the immune responses of the vaccine inside the body.
  • Subunit vaccines– Likewise peptide, subunit vaccines also contain small protein, which acts as a foreign body. It helps in making antibodies to fight against the virus. Knowingly the first AIDS vaccine was developed by implementing a similar subunit method. However, this vaccine has failed to bring effective results to one’s body.
  • DNA vaccines: As it sounds, this vaccine uses specific or multiple genes from the pathogen. These genes are combined with human HIV genes to form protein substances to cure HIV.
  • Recombinant vector vaccines– This vaccine carried out the same strategy, just like the DNA vaccines. Recombinant vector vaccines prevent HIV infection as they contain multiple genes inside them. Some recombinant viruses have poxviruses such as Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) and alphaviruses such as the Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (VEE) virus.
Is there a vaccine for HIV
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What are Prophylactic & Therapeutic Vaccines?

Despite the above types of vaccines that have been discovered till now, there are two other major types: prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines.4

Prophylactic vaccine refers to the artificial establishment of specific immunity, a technique that has significantly reduced suffering and death from various infectious diseases. The B cells, known to be the broadly neutralizing antibodies, help fight against HIV viral replication.

Therapeutic vaccines are being experimented on for several reasons. For example-

  • Cancerous tumors
  • Hepatitis B
  • Tuberculosis
  • Malaria
  • Bacteria that cause gastric ulcers

An HIV preventive vaccine can be given to prevent individuals from coming in contact with the infection.

Is there a vaccine for HIV
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The Clinical Trial Phases

To understand the clinical trials and HIV vaccine development, it is essential to segment them into three phases.

Phase I: Phase I trials are the mild trials conducted on small amounts, say, 10-30. It usually takes 8-12 months to finish the trial.

Phase II: Talking about Phase II, the testing initiated a large group of trials that normally take 50-500 volunteers and candidate vaccines. This phase generates additional safety measures to conduct the phase. In this phase, the total number of individuals has both low-risk people and higher-risk individuals. These trials last for at least 18 months and 24 months.

Phase III: Lastly, the vaccine is tested for its efficiency in Phase III trials. This phase requires several individuals, specifically from a high-risk area. Knowingly this phase lasts more than three years.

The Result of Clinical Trials in India

With some of the top-notch national institutes and research centers like the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), and institutions under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), and another national institute, India have been researching and experimenting in this field for a successful vaccine or HIVs deactivation process.

The Phase I trial in India of AAV, known as Adeno Associated Virus, was based on thirty healthy people. Besides these, HIV-uninfected male and female adults volunteered (vaccine candidates) in this testing. As a result, the trust was well succeeded.

It was noticed that the vaccine was generally safe, well-tolerated, and modestly immunogenic.

Likewise, another phase was carried out in Chennai in January 2006 to examine the safety and durability of the vaccine.

Clinical Trials in Other Nations

Is there a vaccine for HIV in other countries? This trial of a prophylactic vaccine (HIV) studies and vaccine trials in:

• The United States

• Rwanda

• Uganda

• Thailand

• South Africa

The virus replication and HIV subtypes are challenging to read. HIV vaccines protect against the risk of infection.

Is there a vaccine for HIV
kelly-sikkema – unsplash

Tested with HIV?

Calm down! Try not to worry. If you are one of the HIV-infected individuals, then there are chances of transmission to others. So what is the solution? To avoid this, below are some simple tips you can follow to prevent transmission of the infection.

First comes getting yourself treated by a good healthcare professional near you. Nothing is going to work as much as good as HIV antigens medications. Such medicines will help you fight the virus by destroying it in the blood and by making it weak inside your body, which will stop it from getting transmitted to others.

How to Prevent HIV on Your Own?

Scientists are doing their work. However, it does not mean leaving everything in their hands. If you have HIV, make sure you follow specific steps and medications to keep yourself as much as prevented from worsening the situation.

  • During Sex

Sex is one of the kingpin causes of HIV infection. Therefore try to avoid sex these days. Or you must use barriers like condoms to prevent sharing your body fluids with others. This fluid contains your DNA, wherein the HIV is hidden.

Is there a vaccine for HIV
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  • Test yourself for HIV

If you are a regular sexually active person, you must ensure a weekly or monthly HIV test to stay on top of your health. This will help you prevent getting into a chronic situation.

  • Using Drugs correctly

Some people misuse drugs, drinks, and medications, which leads to getting in contact with HIV infection. Therefore one needs to take only the required medicines to avoid any transmission.

  • Medications can help you.

If you are encountered with HIV, all you can do is consult a doctor and take the proper medications for the infection. Some medicines are highly effective in killing HIV-infected cells5 in you.

  • Needles

Whenever you are up for a vaccine or something, make sure you have injected a new needle. You might not know who the earlier person was, and their health condition. Therefore, it’s risky to share the same hands with two people.

Is there a vaccine for HIV
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The Outlook

Is there a vaccine for HIV? No, there is no vaccine finalized yet. In this article, we read about the challenges faced during testing an effective vaccine, the types of vaccines, and all clinical trials to date.

There have been failures at steps; however, each step gave us a new lesson to improve mistakes. Therefore, till now, there’s no official HIV vaccine announced. However, the research side experiments are continuing with the hope of bringing the best vaccine to fight against the infection.

  1. Unemo, Magnus, et al. “Sexually transmitted infections: challenges ahead.” The Lancet infectious diseases 17.8 (2017): e235-e279. ↩︎
  2. Steinman, Ralph M. “Dendritic cells: versatile controllers of the immune system.” Nature medicine 13.10 (2007): 1155-1159. ↩︎
  3. Arora, Poonam, Swati Mehta, and Nidhi Arora. “Effect of Consumers’ Immunity Consciousness on Monthly Consumption of Immunity Booster Products.” (2021). ↩︎
  4. Maraskovsky, Eugene, et al. “Development of prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines using the ISCOMATRIX adjuvant.” Immunology and cell biology 87.5 (2009): 371-376. ↩︎
  5. Vocero-Akbani, Adita M., et al. “Killing HIV-infected cells by transduction with an HIV protease-activated caspase-3 protein.” Nature medicine 5.1 (1999): 29-33. ↩︎

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf


Tripti Bhainsora

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