Treatment of HIV has greatly improved over the last few years. In fact, a cure was recently tested with very positive results in trial runs. However, that doesn’t mean a sure-fire HIV cure is ready for delivery to hospitals around the world, but it is still an encouraging development in the fight against one of the most notorious infections.
It might seem like the best option would be to develop a vaccine that gives people an immunity against HIV, rather than trying to develop a cure for the disease once it has been acquired. So why hasn’t there been an HIV vaccine developed yet? There are a few reasons:
HIV is an infection, not a disease
Though infection and disease might seem interchangeable, there is a difference. A Disease is the result of an infection. i.e., AIDs (disease) is the result of an infection (HIV). While vaccines can confront infections via clearing them out before they have a chance to become a disease and attack the body, HIV is able to avoid the power of a vaccine through a period of inactivity before it becomes AIDs.
HIV Viruses Don’t Work in Vaccine
When you receive a typical vaccine, such as an influenza shot, you are receiving a strain of the flu virus for that year, which enters your body so it can form an immunity. With an HIV vaccine, you would be receiving bits of the HIV virus which have been damaged or killed. The problem is, inactive HIV virus isn’t effective in a vaccine, and live HIV virus is too dangerous. It would backfire tremendously to inject somebody without the live HIV virus.
Your Body Can’t Recognize HIV
In order to develop immunity against an infection such as HIV, your body needs to know what it is dealing with. With HIV, your body doesn’t know how to react in a way that stops the disease. Scientists have worked to develop antibodies which block HIV to deal with this particular problem, known as “broadly neutralizing antibodies”. However, they might not develop fast enough to prevent the infection.
People Don’t Recover from HIV
While HIV is treatable, it is not yet curable. Once you are infected, you carry the disease for the rest of your life. In order for there to be a viable HIV vaccine, there needs to be a case of HIV being eradicated from someone’s system. Other vaccines that have been developed, such as the measles vaccine, came through after a patient was rid of the disease. Without any HIV recovery to emulate, a vaccine is stuck in limbo.
HIV is a very difficult infection in many ways. One of those is how often it mutates. With an infection that is changing form constantly, an HIV vaccine would have difficulty being fully effective against it and all its subtypes.
Don’t Lose Hope
There isn’t a vaccine for HIV, yet. With advancements in medical technology coming every day, it isn’t impossible to believe an effective HIV vaccine could come about one day. We know what is preventing it from current development, and knowing the obstacles is the first step to overcoming them.
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