It has been around four decades now since the outbreak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and we still not have an effective vaccine against the virus. This, despite the face that the virus has claimed the lives of approximately 33 million people so far, and 38.0 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2019, according to WHO.
According to a research journal Avert, around 37.9 million people were living with HIV in 2019 globally.
Approximately every minute and 40 seconds, a child or young person under the age of 20 were newly infected with HIV last year, bringing the total number of children living with HIV to 2.8 million, UNICEF said in a report released in November this year.
“There is still no HIV vaccine. Children are still getting infected at alarming rates, and they are still dying from AIDS. This was even before COVID-19 interrupted vital HIV treatment and prevention services,” said @unicefchief.
🔗 Read more here: https://t.co/Sh5HOBgk1L
— UNICEF South Asia (@UNICEFROSA) November 25, 2020
A disease mortality specialist will tell you that most diseases target and kill the young and the old. HIV however, is most prominent in the 20-49 age group, and in the worst-affected parts of the world, the result has been the virtual demise of an entire generation – the majority of the working and child-rearing population.
Vaccines are the most cost-effective and powerful tool to prevent deadly viral infections. As far as the AIDS is concerned, vaccine development will be an important achievement, as a significant number of people (21.40 Lakhs) were living with HIV in the year 2017.
Why is it so Challenging to Make AIDS Vaccine?
A vaccine targets the virus in a particular form. However, it may not work if the virus mutates. The major obstacles is that the HIV virus mutates quickly, making it difficult to create a vaccine that works against it.
It specifically targets the CD4 cells – the body’s main defenders against infection and using them to make copies of themselves. The HIV virus attacks the human immune system. While the immune system produces HIV antibodies, it can only slow the disease progression and not stop or kill the virus.
The virus hides in the DNA – which means the hidden copies of the virus can’t be destroyed. Hence, a vaccine that buys more time won’t work with an infection like HIV.
For other diseases like Covid-19, vaccines are typically made to mimic the immune reaction of recovered people and almost no people have recovered after contracting There’s no immune reaction that vaccines can mimic. While the immune system produces HIV antibodies, it can only slow the disease progression and not stop or kill the virus.
Researchers also can’t find a good animal model to ensure that the vaccine is likely safe and effective for the HIV virus. While funding creates another roadblock for vaccine research. Federal or independent agencies typically allocate HIV research funds for two- to five-year-long projects.
“Vaccines Don’t Save Lives; Vaccinating People Saves Lives!”
Inequality itself may be acting as a multiplier on the spread and deadliness of any disease.
The relationship between poverty and the pandemic spread in some parts of the world is no longer denied by anybody. No matter where a pandemic starts, the poor always tend to bear the burden of that.
The important question is, what conclusions can be drawn from this connection?
Even though the first treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS was approved in 1987, it took decades to become widely available in some countries as the Western prices of AIDS cocktail between $10,000 and $15,000 a year.
On 6th February 2001, providing a turning point in the history of AIDS therapy, Cipla (Chemical, Industrial and Pharmaceutical Laboratories) developed a revolutionary anti-HIV drug that shocked the world by offering it to poor African countries at less than a dollar a day, that was one-thirtieth of the standard price.
Industry is often equated with self-seeking crony capitalism. Here is a story that epitomises our national spirit of integrity, sacrifice and generosity – of one organisation relinquishing profits in their mission to save the lives of the poorest people on the planet. 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/nDq4hlBR4C
— Varun Gandhi (@varungandhi80) September 18, 2020
Today, one in three people living with HIV in the world are taking a Cipla drug for treatment.
Their vision ‘None shall be denied’ comes with a goal to ensure that every patient has access to high quality, affordable medicine, and support.
How will we do away with HIV and AIDS? This is not an easy question, and there are no easy answers. While not yet curable, HIV is preventable and treatable.
We cannot end the AIDS pandemic tomorrow, but we can honestly lay out what resources and structures would need to be in place for it to happen at all.