In May of 1997, U.S. President Bill Clinton set the goal of developing a vaccine against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, within 10 years. The Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Health was established to help achieve the ambitious goal. That decade has come and gone with no HIV vaccine. But, scientists are tirelessly pressing forward and have made some promising discoveries.
Like many medical practitioners specializing in HIV/AIDS treatment, Dr. Raymond Martins with the Whitman Walker Clinic in Washington is frustrated by the lack of progress toward an HIV vaccine.
The United Nations says more than 30 million people worldwide are living with HIV. Powerful drugs can now limit the damage the virus can do to the human immune system. But neutralizing or preventive vaccines remains elusive.
“HIV mutates quickly and it is also highly variable in the protein that it expresses on its coat, so because of that, it makes it very difficult to form an effective vaccine,” Dr. Martins said.