a syringe and tablets to illustrate a post about the history of the AIDS vaccine

The History of the AIDs Vaccine

The history of the AIDs Vaccine can be traced back to 1984when HIV, (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), was first diagnosed as the cause of AIDs.

But it wasn’t until almost fifteen years later in 1998 when the first large scale vaccine trials began in the Netherlands and North America, and Vax Gen, a biopharmaceutical organisation at the time, initiated the trials involving over 5400 volunteers.

These trials were extended by Vax Gen in the following year to over 2500 volunteers in Thailand, and in the same year, NIAID began trials of a preventative AIDs vaccine in Uganda.

Thankfully, AIDs or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which describes the potentially life-threatening illnesses you can contract as a result of the HIV Virus, no longer has the stigma it once did back in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

And with the recent release of the critically acclaimed British Drama, It’s a Sin, and also with the speed at which vaccines are now being developed for other viruses, there has been a lot of attention recently on the big disease with the little name.

So, why did it take so long to develop a vaccine for AIDs, and how has it evolved?

Read on here to find out more.

The Early Days of AIDs and HIV

For many, the consensus is still that the HIV virus, and therefore AIDs, is a disease borne out 1980s hedonism and one that only affects gay men.

This is not true.

The first known recorded case of a person to die as a result of the HIV virus was in 1959 in the Congo, Central Africa.

This was documented in medical journals at the time, and recordings show that the disease gained momentum in the 1960’s, with the first recording of the disease to be found in the US in 1968.

By the early 1980s the disease was spreading, and by 1985 there was over 20,000 reported casesin every region of the globe.

Fears were growing and as we have already established there was great deal of stigma and shame attached to contracting the virus in the early days.

This fear was further ignited when high profile celebrities fell victim to the disease.

But what was happening with the search for a vaccine?

On 23rd April 1984, the then US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Margaret Heckler announced that scientists had discovered the virus that caused AIDs and went on to say that they were ‘hopeful’ a vaccine would be developed within two years.

Fast forward precisely to World Aids Day 2021and astonishingly, there is still NO vaccine that will prevent HIV infection or treat those who have it. Scientists are however working to develop a vaccine for AIDS.

During the past 37 years the disease has claimed almost 33 million lives, and according to the World Health Organisation, (WHO), ‘HIV continues to be a major global public health issue’.

To put that into context, there has been approximately 3.5 million deaths globally from the Corona Virus and the race to develop a vaccine has already been won, within eighteen months of the first recorded case back in December 2019.

What’s the delay in developing a vaccine for HIV and AIDs?

It is not through lack of investment that a vaccine has yet to be discovered for HIV / AIDs.

Trillions of dollars worldwide have been spent in the search for a cure of the spread HIV / AIDs, and so far, without success.

And scientists put this down to the complexity of the disease itself.

This is because the immune system of almost all human beings doesn’t respond to the HIV virus, and because vaccines are developed from the immune systems of people who have recovered from a disease, and nobody does recover from HIV, there’s still no immune system that a vaccine can imitate.

Furthermore, most vaccines protect against viruses that enter the body through the gastrointestinal system of the respiratory system, HIV enters the body through the blood or by contact of the genital surfaces, and there is still, despite the passing of almost four decades, little knowledge of viruses which are spread in this way.

That said, there has been some notable positives in the search for a cure for HIV /AIDs with antiretroviral therapy being developed which help stop the disease from replicating in the body.

And whilst there is still no known cure for HIV/AIDs, most people who now contract the disease can have it under control within six months of starting treatment.

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However on this World AIDs Vaccine Day 2021 there is hope.

Hope that an eventual cure for HIV/AIDs will be announced, and hope for those already living with the disease that their medication is continually evolving and improving.

And extending life expectancy beyond those who lived with, and tragically died under a cloud of stigma, from the disease back in the early days of the 1980’s.

So, if you want to discuss the development of the vaccine for HIV / AIDs, or you would like advice on any of our pharmaceutical products, you can contact us here or call +44 (0)151 353 1613 to speak to one of our friendly, world-class experts.

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

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