Every year on May 18, World AIDS Vaccine Day, also known as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, is commemorated. The event emphasises the critical need for a vaccine to prevent the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from causing Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The ceremony also pays tribute to the thousands of doctors, scientists, community members and volunteers who are working to create an AIDS vaccine.
World AIDS Vaccine Day was born after a speech by former US President Bill Clinton on May 18, 1997, at Morgan State University in Maryland. He said that ‘only a truly effective, preventive HIV vaccine can limit and eventually eliminate the threat of AIDS’, as noted by the HIV info website.
People commemorated the first anniversary of Clinton’s speech on May 18, the following year, which became the inaugural World AIDS Vaccine Day or HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. Since then, the annual custom has spread throughout the world.
HIV affects the immune system in humans over time, exposing them to microorganisms that take advantage of their weakened immunity, resulting in life-threatening consequences. As a result, an HIV vaccine, either preventative or therapeutic, is a must.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland began working on an HIV vaccine in 1987. The development of the Covid-19 vaccine has aided in this endeavour. Immunologist William Schief of the Scripps Research Institute is working on an HIV vaccine that employs the same mRNA technology as Covid vaccinations, according to the non-profit National Public Radio (NPR) website.
Dr Derseree Archary, a senior scientist at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) says, ‘I know this experimental vaccine sounds like science fiction, but I think in the next 5, 6 years, we should have a vaccine, hopefully, that may be able to confer some degree of protection against HIV’.