A Chip in HIV's Armor


The HIV/AIDS epidemic is one that we seldom see in the news. In between the economic crisis and the up coming presidential election, it is hidden. But it is still there, and still very prevalent. A new break through, in the form of a paper posted on Nature, has shed light on a revolutionary fact that brings us one step closer to finding a vaccine for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.


HIV/AIDS is running rampant in Africa. According to Wikipedia, Africa "is estimated to be home to 69% of all people living with HIV and to 72% of all AIDS deaths in 2009." Of course, Africa is not the only country affected the virus. The CDC says "1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection and 1 in 5 are unaware of their infection." Honestly, those are some scary statistics. I feel like in today's world there should be more that we can do to combat this virus.


But there is good news. This newly published paper has discovered a way to make the body's immune system turn on the invading HIV cells, thus providing protection against it. Although this knowledge was discovered in a test known as RV144, no body could really explain it. However this paper was able to go one step further and figure out what is actually happening.

The paper explains that "those who responded to the vaccine and fended off HIV tended to produce antibodies against a specific part of the virus's protein shell called the V1/V2 loop." Those who were vaccinated and still received the virus ended up being infected by one with a mutation in the V2 portion.

Although this is a very basic explanation of the experiment, it is no doubt fantastic news and a step in the right direction. The thought of being able to successfully vaccinate against HIV and maybe one day eradicate it is incredible. Hopefully, those statistics above will become irrelevant in the near future.

Also, here is the link to the paper on Nature if you are interested. Good luck as it is incredibly long with a lot of numbers and biological terms that I do not even want to think about. Here is the source article as well.


This is a very interesting topic and I have often thought about why it is that scientists have not yet discovered a vaccine or cure for HIV yet. With vaccines for so many viruses and diseases anymore, it feels like HIV will be solved soon and I'm glad you've shed some light on the good news. It is amazing to think what the availability of a vaccine would do for Africa. One negative side I see is that people might start being less protective about sex if they have been vaccinated which would cause other sexually transmitted diseases to spike. However, this is great news and hopefully it comes to be in the near future.

You bring up a very good point when you said that people might start to have less protected sex if this vaccine is made. I did not even think about that. Hopefully this is not the case but it would certainly be interesting to see the ramifications of this.

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