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The human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, is a complicated virus that affects over 35 million people. This disease attacks the body's immune system and weakens its ability to resist other illnesses. Unfortunately, biological researchers have been unsuccessful in creating HIV vaccines that prevent infection or treat patients who have it.
Still, doctors work tirelessly to unlock the secrets of this disease. Since the early 1980s, researchers have developed many HIV-suppressing medications to reduce the likelihood of death. Today, reputable institutions are at work on over 20 credible vaccine trials and spending over $29 billion toward research and response.
Recent developments help those managing this condition feel more optimistic about the future of HIV treatment. At Rapid STD Testing, we explain the development of these vaccinations and the importance of getting checked regularly for HIV. Read about the challenges these researchers face, then schedule a rapid STD test near you.
The Challenges of Creating HIV Vaccinations
Since its discovery in 1983, HIV has created many challenges preventing doctors from developing a vaccine. One major complication contributing to these delays has been the lack of natural immunity that humans have to the disease. Unlike other conditions like chickenpox or the flu, patients cannot recover over time from HIV.
Without any models of natural resistance, doctors struggle to identify immune responses that can combat the virus. Unfortunately, delays in the development of HIV vaccinations put people at risk. The virus causes a progressive decline in human immune cells that eventually leads to the later stage of the disease: AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
Doctors struggle to determine which method of protective immunity would be effective against HIV. For some diseases, specific types of antibodies will destroy harmful viruses. For example, memory T-cells have proven to be useful against the progression of coronavirus.
However, HIV remains an elusive threat and genetically distinct from other viruses the medical community understands. To succeed in developing HIV vaccinations, researchers need to act quickly to combat its various strains.
Multiple Genetic HIV Strains
Developers of HIV vaccines are in a race against time. HIV has the ability to mutate quickly in the human body, and each variable strain is different. Until recently, this problem made pinning down a single vaccination formula impossible.
However, as researchers become more familiar with the mechanisms of viral diseases in the body, they can find potential vulnerabilities in HIV. The first significant breakthrough came when doctors began identifying different strains of HIV by way of antigen/antibody tests.
Researchers could take a sample of a patient's blood or other body fluids and detect the presence of HIV within weeks. This method allowed those with the disease to identify it early and seek medical attention before the virus caused debilitating symptoms. The ability to identify different strains also enabled researchers to begin trials on patients shortly after exposure.
Today, rapid testing is a vital asset in global HIV response efforts. Rapid STD Testing offers a 10-panel STD test to spot HIV and other viral infections in a single visit.
Despite a doctor's ability to diagnose the disease, HIV does a terrific job of hiding from the body's immune system. The virus moves quickly to create latent reservoirs where it can hide dormant. Although HIV will not continue multiplying in this state, it will be unresponsive to medication.
Stealth HIV cells are a serious threat to those with the disease. They can activate again at any time, increasing viral load. In the past, a highly sensitive Quantitative Viral Outgrowth Assay allowed clinicians to identify these latencies.
Now, less labor-intensive TZA tests are becoming more popular. This solution allows doctors to identify the size and number of HIV-carrying reservoirs. Having this information is critical to combating latent HIV in patients.
Researchers haven't agreed on how quickly HIV can establish latency. Nevertheless, they attempt to treat this problem with chemical solutions. For example, the inhibitory activity of some HDAC drugs may “wake up” dormant HIV.
Still, neither this solution nor other medications are effective at clearing these reservoirs. Even more concerning, some HDAC drugs could inadvertently suppress the body's immune protection, halting any chance of anti-HIV antibody responses.
Lack of an Appropriate Animal Model for HIV Shots
Animal models help researchers understand the behavior of viruses and how infections travel throughout the body. In the past, immunologists hoped to predict how HIV might interact with human immune systems through these tests. However, HIV shots fail to produce enlightening results, creating yet another obstacle for vaccine developers.
Still, a solution may come from recent vaccine field tests involving the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus. This disease found in primates relates closely to the genetic makeup of HIV in humans and may offer significant breakthroughs in research. Immunologists are testing vaccines on this virus to determine if they can replicate results into HIV vaccines.
If these clinical trials are successful, researchers may be able to adjust the formula to target active and latent HIV. However, animals have yet to prove themselves reliable models for many of these trials. The medical community may require extensive testing in other areas to confirm the effectiveness of these solutions.
HIV Shots: The State of HIV Vaccine Development, AIDS Vaccines, and More
The challenges researchers face may appear discouraging at first glance. Still, doctors have achieved incredible progress in HIV vaccine development over the last few decades.
During the early years of research, few patients survived HIV. Today, early warnings and HIV-suppressing medication allow patients to enjoy a much higher quality of life when managing the disease.
Still, HIV remains a serious threat to most communities. Researchers have been unable to complete a preventive vaccine that protects humans from infection. As a result, sexual activity and congenital HIV causes the disease to spread to millions of people every year.
Older studies led researchers to believe that the VRC01 antibody was a promising vaccine candidate for blocking HIV strains in humans. However, a recent investigation concludes that these solutions are only about 30% effective against the disease. The demand for effective HIV vaccines continues to rise as the results of past attempts come to light.
Medical professionals around the world struggled to keep up with the COVID-19 pandemic as it emerged. However, the virus provided a rare opportunity for immunologists to observe the behaviors of other quickly mutating viruses. Although HIV variants mutate much faster than COVID, researchers were able to make some revolutionary strides in the development of antiviral technology.
mRNA vaccines proved to be incredibly useful against the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic demonstrated the body's ability to fight off certain viral strains by recognizing the disease and developing an immune response. The pandemic also allowed researchers to develop and test effective vaccines faster than in previous years.
Experimental vaccines may yield some positive responses from participating subjects. For example, HVTN 302 studies three AIDS vaccines that utilize mRNA technology to increase the body's protein count and boost its overall immunity response. Virologists continue to observe the effects of similar mRNA trials in hopes that these approaches open new doors to treating HIV.
HIV vaccine development continues to receive more support from individuals and healthcare entities like Rapid STD Testing. As awareness of the disease grows, researchers have access to more funding and resources to pursue clinical trials. Additionally, COVID-19 created a new sense of urgency for disease prevention.
Public vaccination campaigns allowed immunologists to communicate the importance of vaccine technology and getting tested. Although most people do not have the skills to develop HIV shots and AIDS vaccines, they can still promote the overall health of the community by taking advantage of same-day STD testing.
How the SARS-CoV-2 Virus Helped the Development of HIV Vaccines
SARS-CoV-2 was a strain of the 2019 coronavirus that swept across the globe. The push toward rapid vaccine development helped the medical community reduce infection rates and prevent unnecessary deaths. Surprisingly, the vaccine also helped doctors uncover latent HIV hiding in the blood cells of infected people.
Associate Professor of Immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College Dr. Brad Jones explains why this was such a crucial breakthrough for HIV vaccines. He notes that immunologists knew of the flu vaccine's ability to wake up latent HIV in T-cells. However, they were unsure if the vaccine was only activating flu-specific cells.
Researchers came to find out that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine appeared to activate latent HIV in lab subjects with no previous exposure to COVID-19. Jones believes that this observation could help immunologists find a way to tease latent HIV out of their reservoirs.
His lab conducted pre-approval trials that treated the blood of HIV-infected participants who did not contract COVID-19. They started the test by administering the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine through a viral vector.
The team observed CD8+ T-cells producing granzyme B, a protein that targets HIV-infected cells. The tests indicated that the initial shot may have destroyed some of these infected cells. Researchers believe that observing the behaviors of these CD8+ T-cells after the application of the vaccine is critical to developing a solution that reverses HIV latency.
Jones's past research into HIV vaccines led him to believe T-cells are more practical at measuring latency than HIV RNA. Based on the above study, it appears he was correct.
Still, Jones recognizes the importance of the mRNA technology that was essential to the development of COVID vaccinations. He praises them for “opening a new door to HIV research.”
HIV cases spiked as STD rates during the pandemic increased. During this period, it was hard for many to seek the medical attention they needed. As hospitals and clinics filled with sick COVID-19 patients, many other people avoided these facilities altogether.
As COVID infection rates decline and medical treatment is now more accessible again, Rapid STD Testing urges you to check up on your health at a nearby clinic. The symptoms of latent HIV may not appear as quickly as COVID-19 does. Getting a reliable blood test helps you determine if further treatment is necessary.
Learn More About Getting a Vaccine Against HIV
It doesn't look like we will be getting a vaccine against HIV until research becomes more conclusive. However, Rapid STD Testing provides some of the resources you need to protect yourself against other harmful diseases.
Our team offers confidential STD testing for herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, and more. We also help you learn about other shots that prevent disease, like an HPV vaccine.
We provide a safe, non-judgmental space where you can take your test comfortably. You can enjoy fast results and honest communication when partnering with us.
Learn more about HIV vaccines with Rapid STD Testing. Schedule a test at 866-872-1888.