What is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day?
May 18 will mark this year’s HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD), acknowledging the work of health professionals, scientists, volunteers and members of the community working together to find a safe and effective vaccine for HIV.
As well as offering recognition to those developing an HIV vaccine, this awareness day also aims to educate the public on the importance of preventative HIV vaccine research.
Why researching HIV vaccines matters
It is estimated that 34 million people across the world have contracted the HIV virus, making it a serious global pandemic. In the UK alone, there are around 100,000 people living with the condition and between the years 1981 and 2007 more than 25 million people died from the virus.
At the moment there is no cure for HIV, but luckily scientists over the years have come to learn a great deal about the nature of the disease and how it can be treated to protect the lives of those living with the virus.
Nevertheless, there is still much more research needed in order to develop a reliable and effective vaccine for HIV. A preventative vaccine could help save millions of lives and save billions of dollars each year in treatment costs.
Developments in HIV Research
In recent years, a number of prevention strategies have been developed in an attempt to halt the spread of the HIV virus, including voluntary adult male circumcision and treatments that prevent the transmission of the virus from mother to baby during pregnancy.
However, with over 2.7 million cases of HIV infection in 2010 alone, combining these preventative measures with a reliable vaccine will hopefully put an end to this current global pandemic.
Finding an HIV Vaccine
Many agencies are working together to develop and test HIV vaccines including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in America, universities, foundations, non-profit organisations and bio tech drug companies.
Also, more the 28,000 volunteers have participated in related research studies. For example, in 2009 a vaccine tested in Thailand was able to cut down the rate of HIV infections by one third, giving hope that an effective vaccine may be just around the corner.
A vaccine for HIV could also be used as a therapeutic treatment for those who already have the HIV virus in their system, slowing down, or even stopping the infection from turning into AIDS.
Facts about HIV
HIV can hide from the antibodies that protect the body; this makes it a tricky virus to develop a vaccine against.
There are also many different types of HIV and the virus changes rapidly, even within a single infected person.
At the moment, those infected with the HIV virus can be treated with antiretroviral therapy, which prevents the HIV virus progressing into full-blown AIDS. Drug therapy treatments are however complicated, expensive and can sometimes cause severe side effects. These treatments also have to be taken every single day, to protect the lives of those who have contracted the HIV virus.
It is believed that there are approximately 21,900 people living in the UK at the moment who are unaware that they may have contracted HIV; this is why raising awareness of the disease and the search for a vaccine is so important.
What can I do to help the cause?
Visit the official HIV Vaccine Awareness Day website and get involved with discussions on HIV research on social media.
Buy a red ribbon to wear on your lapel to show your support for the cause on 18 May.
Read all the facts about HIV Vaccine research and find out how you can volunteer for an HIV research study.