Decades after it first reared its head, AIDS continues to remain a burden on communities and governments globally. Around 36 million people worldwide are living with the disease, of which 1.8 million are children. The infected are marked for life by the HIV, which targets and weakens their immune system. People living with AIDS are easily subjected to other infections and usually succumb from preventable diseases. Despite many advancements in AIDS research, we still haven’t found a way to completely prevent the disease. And if at all there’s a way to do it, it’s only through vaccines. So every year the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) observes World AIDS Vaccine Day or HIV Vaccine Awareness Day on May 18.
History of World AIDS Vaccine Day
In 1997 the then President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton made a historic speech at the Morgan State University where he broached the topic of finding a vaccine for AIDS. Pakistan HIV Outbreak: Nearly 500 Tested Positive For AIDS Virus in Sindh.
He said: “Only a truly effective, preventive HIV vaccine can limit and eventually eliminate the threat of AIDS.” To commemorate his historic speech and to promote the need for an HIV vaccine, World AIDS Vaccine Day was observed for the first time a year later in 1998.
Each year, communities across the world observe World AIDS Vaccine Day by organising activities to raise awareness and to promote research about HIV immunisation. UK Patient Cleared of AIDS after Receiving Bone Marrow Resistant to HIV; Is A Cure Near?
Significance of World AIDS Vaccine Day
Antiretroviral treatments can keep those infected with HIV healthy and prevent sexual transmission of the virus to a certain extent. Other preventive methods such as male circumcision, safe condom use and needle exchange programmes are also doing their part to bring down AIDS incidences.
According to the National Institute for Health, mathematical models suggest that even after scaling up these preventive measures and treatment tools, AIDS pandemic cannot be effectively ended without a safe and effective vaccine.
So NIAID has been working towards developing a vaccine that could effectively prevent AIDS. World AIDS Vaccine Day serves as a reminder for the relentless pursuit of researchers towards this endeavour.
What is AIDS and HIV?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It's a disease that affects the CD4 cells of the immune system due to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The attack makes it difficult for the body to fight infections and cancers. If left untreated, HIV can develop into full-blown AIDS.
HIV can spread through contact with bodily fluids such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, breast milk, vaginal fluids and rectal fluids of the affected person.
Symptoms of HIV infection include flu-like symptoms, fever, chills or rash. Treatment for HIV includes antiretrovirals or ART.