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Research Notebook: The Search for HIV Vaccines -- Five Reasons It Matters to People Living With HIV

Issue 2, 2006

The Search for HIV Vaccines: Five Reasons it Matters to People Living with HIV

The HIV vaccines currently in development are designed to benefit people who are still HIV negative. So why should people who are already HIV-positive care about them? Here are 5 important reasons.

  1. Until there is a cure, the best hope for defeating AIDS lies in preventing new infections. While safer-sex education and other types of prevention will always be needed, a vaccine would provide an extra layer of protection for millions of people around the world.

  2. People living with HIV provide crucial leadership in all aspects of the fight against AIDS. Much of society looks to people with HIV for insight and guidance about AIDS issues. So it is crucial for HIV-positive people to understand why HIV vaccines are important and to help correct myths and misconceptions about them.


  3. HIV vaccines may be able to help many of the people who are close to those living with HIV. In couples of mixed HIV status, a vaccine could help to protect the HIV-negative partner. The next generation of young people could also be helped tremendously, by being spared the devastation of the epidemic. In fact, a vaccine would be a huge help to the partners, families, and friends of people living with HIV.

  4. Research into a vaccine to prevent HIV may also provide crucial new insights into the virus itself and into how the immune system responds to HIV. This raises the possibility of a "therapeutic vaccine" which could be used to help people with HIV keep the virus in check, potentially providing a direct benefit to HIV-positive individuals

  5. In a world of limited resources, every dollar that is saved by preventing an HIV infection can be directed to other important causes. An HIV vaccine could help make extra funds available for HIV medications, drug treatment, poverty reduction, and many other important concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is an HIV vaccine?
    An HIV vaccine provides the body with a blueprint for creation of antibodies by the immune system. The goal is for this to "teach" a person's immune system to recognize and defend against a new HIV infection.

  2. How would a vaccine help combat the AIDS epidemic?
    In the same way that vaccines help to protect against such diseases as hepatitis, polio, and measles, an HIV vaccine could help keep HIV-negative people from becoming infected with HIV.

  3. Is there a vaccine for HIV yet?
    HIV is an extremely variable virus, with multiple subtypes and the capacity to mutate within each individual. This makes it a complex target, and no effective vaccine has yet been developed.

  4. What is the current state of HIV vaccine research?
    There are several research studies now testing promising HIV vaccines. These studies are complex, time-consuming and require many volunteers.

  5. How do HIV vaccine trials work and who can participate?
    Healthy HIV-negative people ages 18-50 can volunteer. HIV vaccines do not transmit HIV and you cannot become infected with HIV from volunteering; they also do not protect against HIV. In New York City you can find out more by calling 1-877-NYC-HVTU or you can try visiting the website

    For more info about HIV vaccines, visit the Body Positive website at and click on "HIV Info."

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This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.