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October 24/31, 2017

An HIV Vaccine Is Essential for Ending the HIV/AIDS Pandemic

Author Affiliations
  • 1National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
JAMA. 2017;318(16):1535-1536. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.13505

Today, highly effective modalities of HIV treatment and prevention are available, and these essential tools, if properly implemented, could end the current HIV/AIDS pandemic. Yet, the pandemic continues.1

Most of the major infectious diseases affecting humans, such as smallpox, polio, and yellow fever, have required effective vaccines for their control and in some cases elimination, and so the question arises whether the HIV/AIDS pandemic can be effectively addressed without an HIV vaccine. The answer to that question is not straightforward, but needs to be addressed from both a theoretical and a practical standpoint. Theoretically, the HIV pandemic can be ended without an HIV vaccine. More than 30 highly effective anti-HIV drugs are currently available. When given in combinations of 3 or more, these medications can durably suppress the virus such that patients who are treated soon after infection and continue therapy throughout their lifetime can expect to have an almost-normal life expectancy.