In the long and tenuous fight agains HIV and AIDS, researchers seem to have made a small, but extremely important step towards finally beating the virus.

HIV vs antibodies

Researchers at the University of Melbourne have reported identifying the antibodies which fight HIV in a breakthrough that gets us likely closer than ever to develop and HIV vaccine. The study conducted included the HIV testing of 100 people who already had the virus. The tests revealed the fact that antibodies were successful, driving the virus back and forcing it to mutate around them, which raises hopes that the antibodies, if introduced to healthy people, could become an effective vaccine that could prevent HIV alltogether.

Professor Stephen Kent, who led the study, said developing such a vaccine would be the holy grail in fighting HIV, a virus which has infected over 30 million people worldwide, making it one of the world’s deadliest pandemics.

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”We’ve been working on this problem for over 10 years and the vaccines we’ve tried in the past have induced some immune responses, but they have not been very effective,” he said. ”We think we know why now, we think we were inducing the wrong immune responses. If we can use this knowledge to induce the right immune responses, we hope to really knock this on the head.”

An unforgiving disease

The virus is especially active in Africa, where it often ravages population with no access to information or condoms, let alone a gum clinic. Recent effors have been somewhat successful in limiting the rapid spread of the virus, but we are still miles and miles away from an effective solution.

But this doesn’t mean that modern and developed countries don’t have a problem with it – on the contrary. However, most of the times, people want to ignore this problem, in the hope that it will just go away; but it won’t. Whether we want to accept it or not, HIV is a real problem, it’s not limited to poor environments or homosexuals, and unless found extremely early on, it’s deadly. HIV kills. No matter where you are, who you are, or what you do. That’s why it’s extremely important to check it out if you have any suspicion whatsoever, no matter how small or unlikely.

HIV is transmitted through unsafe sex (semen and vaginal fluid), contaminated needles, breastmilk, blood transfusion, and an infected pregnant woman will carry the disease to her child. HIV symptoms can be very deceiving, and include “fever, lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes), pharyngitis (sore throat), rash, myalgia (muscle pain), malaise, and mouth and esophageal sores” (from Wikipedia). This happens in the first stage. After this, there is a latency stage, which can last from a few weeks to a few decades, depending on the individual, in which there are almost no symptoms at all.

Hopefully, research such as this one will bring new hope to the millions and millions of people accross the world who are suffering from the virus, and will spare the millions more who are yet to be infected.