This background paper is the first in an occasional series on current challenges in HIV vaccine research. It explains in clear lay terms why there is now a consensus among vaccine scientists that in order to protect against HIV infection, a vaccine will need to trigger what are known as "neutralising antibodies", capable of stopping HIV from infecting cells in the body.
Particularly useful is the way the document relates the quest to produce neutralising antibodies against HIV with what may be readers' experiences with other vaccines and diseases. It explains what antibodies are, and why they have proven to be effective in protecting against other diseases, such as measles, mumphs and rubella. It also explains why the antibodies that an HIV-infected person develops soon after infection – and the most frequently used basis for diagnosing if a person is HIV-positive – fail to eliminate the virus. The document goes on to outline why it is difficult to design a vaccine that elicits neutralising antibodies, and what scientists are doing in order to try to achieve this.
Particularly useful for media professionals, the document also provides a list of experts on HIV and antibodies.