While the two-pronged strategy of PrEP and U=U (Undetectable equals Untransmittable) has given us the tools to minimise the acquisition of HIV, the prospect of a vaccine against the virus is undoubtedly a game-changer.
To date, it’s been difficult to develop a vaccine against HIV because the virus mutates so quickly. But it appears that the science used to tackle Covid-19 could also be effective against HIV.
Moderna is a bio-tech company that successfully developed a vaccine against Covid-19. Moderna (and also Pfizer) used mRNA technology for its vaccine. This enables scientists to create a vaccine that can target multiple variants of a virus.
Moderna has now applied that mRNA technology in the development of a vaccine against HIV. Moderna has recently announced that they’ve begun human trials of this vaccine against HIV.
“At Moderna, we believe that mRNA offers a unique opportunity to address critical unmet public health needs around the world…” explained Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna. “We believe advancing this HIV vaccine program is an important step in our mission to deliver on the potential for mRNA to improve human health.”
It’s not clear what the timeline could potentially be if these human trials are successful – the vaccine would then need to go through regulatory approval before going into production. However, human trials is a fairly advanced stage of the development process, and regulators around the world have tested and approved the mRNA technology used by the HIV vaccine – all of which would speed up the process.
In the meantime, PrEP and U=U remains our best strategy for protecting each other and limiting the transmission of HIV.