The development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine must remain a top research priority, but a vaccine may never fully prevent HIV infection because of the unique way the virus attacks its hosts, Dr. Anthony Fauci writes in a commentary posted on MSNBC’s website.
In the piece, Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a renowned AIDS researcher, tries to explain why, despite more than two decades of intensive research, scientists have still not been able to develop a vaccine to protect against HIV infection.
He explores how with HIV, unlike other pathogens, there is no real “grace period” between transmission and attack and there is no “proof of concept,” in which the body mounts a response that scientists can then use as a map to developing a vaccine.
“Despite many scientific obstacles, and despite a lack of easily transferable lessons from classical vaccinology, the development of an HIV vaccine must remain at the top of the global health research agenda,” Fauci writes, adding that he is “cautiously optimistic” the scientific hurdles can be cleared with more time and effort.
But, he says, “Since it is possible that an HIV vaccine alone will never fully prevent HIV infection the way smallpox or polio vaccines can, our efforts in HIV vaccinology must be part of a broader approach toward HIV prevention that includes the delivery of proven methods such as HIV testing and counseling, education and behavior modification, the use of condoms, the treatment and prevention of drug and alcohol abuse, syringe exchange programs, antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, and medically supervised adult male circumcision.”
Click here to read the whole commentary.