SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was first identified on December 31, 2019, and within a year, Pfizer had not just developed a vaccine, but also received the emergency use authorisation (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration. However, even after so many years, there is no vaccine for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that will help in eliminating the epidemic.
The World AIDS Vaccine Day is celebrated annually on May 18 to honour and thank healthcare professionals, researchers, volunteers and community members for the work they are doing to find a safe and effective HIV/ AIDS World Health vaccine. Also known as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, it emphasises on the urgent need for an HIV vaccine.
HIV Vaccine Awareness Day also aims to spread awareness on HIV and AIDS and educate individuals on preventive measures.
The origin of the World AIDS Vaccine Day is rooted in a speech delivered by former US President Bill Clinton on May 18, 1997, at the Morgan State University, Maryland.
In the speech, Clinton had emphasised the need for a “truly effective, preventive HIV vaccine” that would control the spread of HIV and eventually wipe it out.
The following year, people commemorated the day as the first World AIDS Vaccine Day or HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. Since then, the annual tradition has continued across the globe.
According to statistics by the World Health Organisation, since HIV was first discovered in 1983, 79.3 million people have been infected with the virus that killed 36.3 million people.
At the end of 2020, there were 37.7 million people living with HIV, of which 1.7 million were children below the age of 15 years. The same year 680,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses. However, AIDS-related deaths fell by 64 percent in 2020 since its peak in 2004 when 1.9 million people had died from AIDS-related illnesses worldwide. It is also 47 percent lesser than 2010 when 1.3 million people of the virus.
AIDS vaccine research
Scientists started researching on the HIV vaccine in 1987 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland, US. The research on COVID-19 vaccine has helped speed up the process.
Immunologist William Schief of the Scripps Research Institute has been working on an HIV vaccine using the same mRNA technology used in Covid vaccines, an article by non-profit National Public Radio revealed.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)