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HIV Vaccines 101: How Vaccines Work

October 3, 2016


HIV Vaccines 101: How Vaccines Work

Vaccines have proven to be the most effective means to prevent and even eradicate infectious diseases. Vaccines have safely and effectively prevented millions of illnesses, disabilities and deaths from smallpox, polio, measles, rabies, influenza, pneumonia, human papillomavirus (HPV) and many other diseases.

The development of a safe, effective and inexpensive preventive HIV vaccine is key to ending the global epidemic. Currently there is no preventive vaccine for the human immunodeficiency virus. This is because the virus rapidly mutates and has "unique ways of evading the immune system, and the human body seems incapable of mounting an effective immune response against it," according to the National Institutes of Health.

HIV is called a retrovirus because it has the unique ability to replicate itself as part of a host cell's DNA. Most viruses and bacteria are not nearly that diabolical and have rather predictable life cycles. That's why scientists were able to successfully create effective vaccines to target them.

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Credit: Leafedge for iStock via Thinkstock.

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