Leading experts say HIV vaccine could be on the way in 2021

Three experimental vaccines are currently entering the last stages of testing.

A gloved hand tests a vaccine in a test tube

In the continuing global fight against HIV there may be another game changer on the horizon as leading experts in the field have suggested that three currently ongoing trials could lead to a HIV vaccine in 2021.

The three vaccine trials –  Imbokodo, Mosaico and HVTN 702 are now entering the final stages of testing, and as Dr Susan Buchbinder, the director of a HIV research programme at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, says, it is “perhaps one of the most optimistic moments we have been in”.

In an interview with NBC News, Buchbinder continued, “We have three vaccines currently being tested in efficacy trials and it takes quite a bit to actually be promising enough in the earlier stages stages of trials to move you forward into an efficacy study.”

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke about one of the trials – Imbokodo – which is taking place in southern Africa where heterosexual women have a high incidence of infection. He said, “It’s almost unbelievable, but it’s true, women between the ages of 18 and 25 — the prevalence of infection is well over 50 percent….if the vaccine works, you’re going to know pretty quickly.”

The Mosaico trial will involve the recruitment of around 3,800 gay men and transgender people across Europe and the US for its clinical tests, while the HVTN 702 test is using as its basis a previous vaccine test which was only partially effective.

Both experts say that while a successful vaccine would be a huge step forward in the fight against HIV, the currently existing ways to stop HIV could in and of themselves be hugely effective if there was greater knowledge and education about them. Dr Fauci stressed that those prevention methods “are being so successfully used, even in the absence of a vaccine, that if one or more of these vaccines look good, have a 50-60% efficacy, I think that’s going to be the game changer for turning the epidemic around.”

Regarding the need for greater knowledge an education on prevention strategies, a recent survey suggested that 87% of Irish people don’t know what PrEP is. Other key findings included:

  • 65% of Irish adults still believe that HIV is a sensitive subject.
  • 93% of people think there needs to be more information on HIV in Ireland.
  • 79% of people say that the first thing they would do if they found out they had HIV would be to visit a HIV clinic.
  • 70% of people feel that the risk of HIV is not taken into consideration before engaging in sexual activity.
  • 1 in 5 are unaware of any HIV prevention methods but of those who did know, only 2% mentioned PrEP.
  • 87% of people had never heard of PrEP, but 36% of people admitted that they would consider taking it.
  • 7 in 10 people believe PrEP should be available free of charge.

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