Scientists are edging closer to a long-term preventative HIV vaccine, new research suggests.
A single injection protected monkeys against a version of the virus for at least 18 weeks, suggesting the jab could offer people months of immunity, a study by Rockefeller University, New York, found.
People at high risk of becoming infected, such as those with HIV-positive partners, can take the preventative drug PrEP before sex, however, there is no long-term, effective jab.
Developing such a vaccine is difficult due to HIV ‘hiding’ from people’s immune systems, however, including certain proteins in the injection cause immune cells to recognise parts of the ‘envelope’ that surround the virus, the research adds.
According to the researchers, their findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, ‘lay the groundwork’ for a preventative vaccine that could be given as little as once a year. It is unclear when it may be available.
More than 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV, with one in seven being unaware of it.
Currently, there is no cure for HIV. Lifelong antiviral treatment controls the infection but often causes side effects including nausea, vomiting and insomnia.
Scientists are edging closer to a long-term preventative HIV vaccine (stock)
WHAT IS PrEP? THE HIV PREVENTION DRUG THAT STOPS 90 PERCENT OF TRANSMISSION
This drug in particular is fixed-dose combination of two anti-retroviral drugs, tenofovir and FTC, in one pill.
They work together to interfere with an enzyme which HIV uses to infect new cells, slowing down the virus’s attack or preventing it altogether.
The drug is designed for people that have not yet been exposed to the virus to protect themselves against it.
Alternatively, people who have been exposed can take PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), a month-long course of drugs started within 72 hours of exposure.
HIV epidemic growing at an ‘alarming pace’ in Europe
This comes after health officials revealed last November that Europe’s HIV epidemic is growing at an ‘alarming pace’ as infections reached their highest level in 2016 since records began.
In 2016, around 160,000 people contracted HIV, which causes AIDS, in 53 European countries, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Over the past decade, the rate of newly-diagnosed HIV infections in Europe has risen by 52 percent from 12 in every 100,000 people in 2007 to 18.2 per 100,000 in 2016, the research adds.
According to the report, this increase was ‘mainly driven by the continuing upward trend in the East’, which accounts for around 80 percent of Europe’s cases.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, European regional director of the WHO, previously said: ‘This is the highest number of cases recorded in one year. If this trend persists, we will not be able to achieve the target of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030.’
Past findings suggest HIV rates are rising in eastern Europe, particularly in those over 50 who inject illegal drugs. This is thought to be due to a lack of awareness campaigns on the infection’s risks or how to prevent transmission.
Over 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV, with one in seven being unaware (stock)
Despite HIV rates rising in Europe, figures released last July showed deaths linked to AIDS have halved in 10 years. AIDS is a syndrome that can occur in the late stages of HIV infection.
Global fatality numbers fell to one million in 2016 from 1.9 million in 2005, according to a report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids).
The report claims the ‘scales have been tipped’ due to more than half of patients now having access to treatment.
Targets aim to have 30 million patients receiving therapy by 2020.
Eastern and southern Africa are ‘leading the way’ and have reduced new HIV infections by nearly a third since 2010, according to the report.
UNAids has set a 2020 target known as ’90-90-90′, which aims for 90 percent of HIV patients to receive a diagnosis, of which 90 percent will be treated, of which 90 percent will have their infection suppressed.
In 2016 these figures were 70 percent, 77 percent and 82 percent, respectively.