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World AIDS Vaccine Day 2021: Here's Why We Don’t Have an HIV Vaccine

(Representative pic: Shutterstock)

(Representative pic: Shutterstock)

In 1984 HIV was first identified. Although at that time the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared that there will be a vaccine in 2 years, several clinical trials of potential vaccines proved futile.

World AIDS Vaccine Day is celebrated internationally on May 18. A day dedicated to emphasize the ongoing urgent requirement of an HIV vaccine; and also acknowledge the insurmountable work done by healthcare professionals, researchers on HIV, all across the globe, World AIDS Vaccine Day is an extremely significant event.

Attempting towards spreading awareness on HIV, AIDS, educating individuals on the preventive measures, causes, the day is also known as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day.

It has been a long time since the world was inflicted with this life-threatening HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Only a proper vaccine can limit the spread of the disease and help us eliminate it from the root.

Having said that, sadly there has been no vaccine produced yet to counter this epidemic.

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As a matter of fact it is not an easy job to develop a vaccine to battle the disease that has taken away so many lives in all these years.

Wondering why? On this World AIDS Vaccine Day, let’s find out why we don’t have an HIV vaccine:

In 1984 HIV was first identified. Although at that time the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared that there will be a vaccine in 2 years, several clinical trials of potential vaccines proved futile.

The following reasons have been deduced after encountering the setbacks of failed vaccine administration:

  • Immune system in humans can’t detect HIV thoroughly as it hides itself. As a result, our bodies fail to produce antibodies that are strong enough to combat the infection. Whatever HIV antibodies the body generates are very weak and are able to only slow the disease. White blood cells initiate the process of signalling killer cells to the infection site. But HIV targets these very cells and compromises the body’s defense mechanism leading to immune exhaustion.
  • HIV virus mutates rapidly. Now, the vaccine aims to destroy the virus in a particular form; so once the virus changes its form, the vaccine stops working any longer.
  • Vaccines aim at protecting against disease not infection. HIV is an infection till the time it progresses after a lengthy dormant period to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) which is stage 3, later on. The virus during the entire period disguises itself in the DNA thus making it impossible for the body to locate the virus and destroy it. Hence, a vaccine doesn’t prove useful.
  • Vaccines are developed by mimicking the immune response of people who have recovered from the disease. But, unfortunately no human being has recuperated from HIV. Therefore researchers have nothing to mimic.
  • In most cases, vaccines are created with killed or feeble viruses. But expected immune response does not come from dead or weakened HIV virus. Live form of the virus is way too dangerous to use.

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first published:May 18, 2021, 10:21 IST