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Challenges in Designing HIV Vaccines

This factsheet begins by listing the criteria for an ideal vaccine, including that it should be inexpensive, easy to store and administer, and able to elicit strong immune responses that confer long-lasting protection against HIV infection. The ideal vaccine, it says, would also protect against exposure to many different strains of HIV.

It then outlines the scientific questions that remain in the way of achieving such goals, and how vaccine researchers are trying to overcome these. For example, with no documented case of a person ever recovering from, and eradicating HIV infection, scientists know little about which elements of the immune response to target with a vaccine in order to provide protection against HIV infection. But studying people known as ‘long-term non-progressors’, and others who have remained uninfected despite multiple exposures to HIV, is providing clues. In addition, researchers are exploring ways of designing vaccines that are appropriate for strains of HIV around the world, and improving the use of animal models to test vaccines before they enter clinical trials. 

This useful and detailed document outlines the gaps in scientific knowledge that urgently need filling in order to design an effective vaccine against HIV, and the strategies that scientists are pursuing in order to address these. It is accessible to general readers, but will require a knowledge of some scientific terms (a glossary is available for explanations of specific terms).