Since the first diagnosis of HIV, medical scientists, and clinical trial volunteers worldwide have tried to find a vaccine to prevent people from contracting the virus. And recently, complications regarding the availability of a key medication could further complicate HIV vaccine trials.
While there is still no cure for the virus, pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs like Truvada daily pills serve to prevent the illness’s contraction. Research has shown in recent years that PrEP medications have a 99% chance of preventing HIV if used daily.
Another point in PrEP medications favor is the newly discovered anti-viral injection that works better than Truvada. However, despite all these medications, finding a vaccine for HIV remains challenging.
The virus has claimed about 33 million lives since the mid 1980s, and in 2019, there were about 1.7 million new infections. The numbers have increased the urgency for scientists to find a workable vaccine, but they keep hitting roadblocks due to the available preventive options.
Truvada sells for $2,000 per month in the United States. If the new anti-viral injection, Cabotegravir, gets approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it could sell more. But the cost has not deterred people from relying on the drugs.
Dr. Carol Weiss, the laboratory chief for the FDA’s Office of Vaccine Research and Review, said there won’t be an end to the virus until they find a vaccine. She noted that carrying out complex HIV vaccine trials in the face of the new interventions is challenging.
Additionally, going ahead with vaccine research would be unethical, as it means denying PrEP medications to participants. Furthermore, if those taking part in the HIV vaccine trials are also on Truvada, it would be hard to know if it’s the vaccine or the drug that’s keeping the virus at bay. All hope isn’t lost, though, as scientists will continue to find ways to make it work.
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