Wellness-Many people don’t realize just how close we are to creating a vaccine for HIV. Phil Berman from UC Santa Cruz has been working to reach the vaccination goal for over 30 years. In the 90’s he created a vaccine for HIV that was tested on 16,000 people in Thailand and ended up having a 30% success rate.
While this is great news and a huge step forward in the battle against HIV, those numbers are not high enough for the US government to approve the vaccination. There needs to be a 60% success rate in order for the FDA to consider using the drug in the United States. European countries have similar regulations with many EU countries being even more conservative and restrictive that the US when it comes to approving drugs and vaccinations.
While HIV has changed over the years, and in the US and other developed countries it is not the death sentence it once was, it is still a huge global problem with 35 million adults and children living with HIV worldwide. In the United States and Europe combined there are roughly 2.5 million people living with the disease. In Africa the problem still rages out of control with over 24 million people tested positive with HIV. In a place where health care is harder to obtain and education about the illness is not far-reaching HIV very often dominates communities.
The way vaccines work is by basically tricking the immune system into thinking it has the disease that it is being vaccinated for. The vaccine contains the disease virus or bacteria, called antigens, in a small amount that is just enough to cause the immune system to recognize it and create proteins called antibodies to fight it off.
In the case of getting infected with the real disease, the antigens would replicate rapidly and thousands of times causing the person to become ill. In the case of the vaccination, the body actually stores these antibodies so if the person is infected with that disease later in life, the vaccination usually still works. Sometimes vaccinations need to be boosted in varying time frames. Tetanus for example needs to be boosted every 10 years.
Berman is closer than ever to creating the next round in HIV vaccinations. He has discovered that some of the most potent antibodies are ones that bind to sugar molecules on the vaccines surface so he has included these delicate sugars. Being able to create this vaccination just right and in mass amounts is proving to be very challenging but he is closer than ever to making this a reality.
Keep in mind there have been other human trials for HIV vaccination, but none of them have compared in size and scope to the first one we discussed earlier and the next one that will be put on by Berman when this next round is ready.
HIV was stigmatized in the 80’s and to this day is shrouded in prejudice and a lack of understanding and knowledge by many. If this vaccination proves successful, it would work to prevent people from ever getting HIV, but it would not be a cure for people already living with it. It is important to get tested for HIV especially for sexually active people.
Contrary to misinformation, this disease does not discriminate and there are four ways it can be passed from person to person; mothers breast milk, semen, vaginal secretions, and blood. People that are sexually active or using iv needles are susceptible to getting HIV and need to get tested every 3 months and use protection during sexual relations.
This vaccination by Phil Berman offers much hope to an era of darkness and if it proves successful it will impact the planet in a powerful way by preventing future HIV infections and saving countless millions of lives.
Vol. 13 Issue 48
Pub: Jun 12, 2015