Numerous research teams across the globe are dedicated to developing a vaccine against HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). However, until now, these continued efforts have not yielded meaningful results. Now, a clinical trial has finally shown a certain efficacy for a vaccine, although the success is still modest (rate of infection cut by a third).
This vaccine is actually a combination of two vaccines that had proven ineffective when used individually. The combined version was tested over the course of seven years and administered to 16,000 men and women aged 18 to 30 who had a medium risk of contracting the virus. Half the volunteers were given the vaccine, the others were given a placebo, and all were given information on HIV prevention. The participants were screened for HIV every six or twelve months.
At the end of the study, the researchers observed that the risk of developing HIV had been cut by nearly a third: 74 people who did not get the vaccine were infected, compared to 51 in the vaccinated group. We are therefore still far from a vaccine that offers definite protection against HIV, but this is an important step in that direction.
Approximately 33 million people worldwide have HIV – in other words the equivalent of the Canadian population! While antiviral medication can greatly curb its progression, the disease is still incurable and even fatal when it evolves into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
Safe sex practices, including abstinence or systematically using a condom if both partners have not undergone screening, are the primary way to reduce the transmission of HIV.
For now, education and supporting scientific research are our greatest hopes in the war against HIV. The road may still be long, however, before we can claim victory against this terrible virus.