Mumbai: Thirty years since the first case of a person infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV was reported, there is still no realistic prospect of a vaccine for the disease. Records show that in these 30 years, almost 25 million people died of HIV. In 2011, 25 million children worldwide were orphaned by AIDS. According to UNAIDS, there has been a 21 per cent dip worldwide in AIDS-related deaths but 34 million people are still living with HIV.
One of the main reasons for scientists not been able to produce a vaccine could be that HIV is a complex virus. So far, scientists have identified 10 different patterns of the virus but there could be many more and the virus also constantly evolves.
More than $100 million have been pumped into the research and there have been at least 80 clinical trials, including the massive trial in Bangkok in 2011, but a viable vaccine still looks years away. "It's just a matter of time. The last couple of years have seen major progress in research - we don't have anything in hand but we are closer to understanding the virus than ever before," says Executive Director of the International AIDS Society Bertrand Audoin.
Twenty two vaccine candidates are being tested worldwide and the good news is that all this research has resulted in more effective treatment. But with no vaccine on the horizon, prevention is the key. Though UNAIDS estimates show that India has seen a 56 per cent drop in HIV cases in 2012, it's too soon for complacency.