Prominent headlines aside, it is possible to get a true sense of the scope of current efforts to create an HIV vaccine by attending any one of the numerous research conferences in the field—such as those sponsored by the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, a global alliance of independent organizations working together to accelerate the development of safe and effective HIV vaccines.
For example, at “AIDS Vaccine 2010” in Atlanta in late September, one had the option of attending close to two dozen sessions covering everything from novel immunogen delivery strategies to animal models of HIV transmission to recent advances in B-cell and protective antibody responses.
Numerous smaller symposia, such as one held at the New York Academy of Sciences in May, attracted speakers who addressed the challenges of developing HIV vaccines to prevent or control infection, the genetic diversity of the virus, and mechanisms that can be used to reduce HIV transmission in conjunction with a future vaccine.
According to IAVI, funding for a preventative AIDS vaccine research topped $868 million during 2008 alone. While the investment is significant, so is the progress being made.
The search for an HIV vaccine is an ongoing research goal that continues to challenge the top minds in the infectious disease research community. Continued funding is vital, and cooperation among various agencies may play an important role.
Although it is still too early to provide a time frame for—or quantify the probability of—ultimate success, there is a strong belief that a vaccine is a realizable goal, one that if achieved could mean a better life for millions worldwide.