AA / Tunisia / Hajer Cherni
For more than forty years, considerable efforts have been made to find a vaccine against HIV.
Around the world, research continues to combat this global pandemic that has killed more than 32 million people since its discovery in 1981.
On the occasion of the celebration of the International HIV Vaccine Day, which is celebrated every year on May 18, Anadolu Agency takes stock of the situation of these four decades of fight against the disease.
In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) deplored a balance heavier than ever. 680,000 people worldwide have died from HIV and at least 1.5 million people have tested positive, bringing the number of people living with HIV to 37.7 million at the end of 2020.
Indeed, scientific research, in the early 2000s, advanced and the appearance of antiretroviral treatments drastically reduced mortality and the spread of the virus. However, this pandemic remains a serious scourge, affecting more and more victims, particularly in poor countries.
— Is there really a vaccine against HIV?
According to scientists, a vaccine requires long years of development to achieve more or less concrete results. In fact, to avoid any contamination by HIV, no vaccine is planned in the near future.
According to data published on the official website of the Institut Pasteur de France, “basic and clinical research, as well as treatment and prevention, made it possible in 2012 to stop the rise of the pandemic.” However, “this virus is still a big problem today.”
To eradicate it, it is essential, according to the Institut Pasteur, to learn more about the mechanisms of HIV infection, the virus responsible, to advance therapeutic and vaccine research.
Scientists continue their research to find a vaccine that can stop this virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
It is also important to understand that AIDS takes time to develop and the victim will not get sick right away because HIV takes several years before attacking the immune defenses.
Why would it be difficult to develop the HIV vaccine?
People with HIV are forced to undergo treatment for life. Because, by the way, it has been shown that there is no cure for this virus.
The complexity of HIV, which has the ability to mutate very quickly and escape possible vaccines, has forced scientists to find a specific remedy. This truth is supported by most specialists and laboratories that, to this day, have struggled to develop a vaccine.
You should know that HIV affects CD4 T lymphocytes, which are a very important component of the immune system. The virus is integrated into the genome and cannot be eliminated by the immune system in any way.
— HIV-positive Tunisians face shortage of HIV drugs
In Tunisia, the fight against HIV is still relevant and the fight against this virus continues through the organization of prevention activities through associations, for better sexual health.
In addition, a report published by the Joint United Nations Program (UNAIDS), for the year 2019, communicated an alarming assessment of the number of people living with HIV or AIDS.
”4,500 people in the country are HIV-positive, of whom 1,303 receive free treatment. Among the victims there are 34 children, 745 men and 524 women,” the report says.
Only 51%, always according to the same source, are aware of their positivity and 32% receive treatment for life.
The UN body has thus reported the registration of 198 cases, including seven children.
Tunisia attaches great importance to respecting the anonymity of reports of HIV/AIDS cases, and this, since the creation of the National Program to Fight AIDS (PNLS/IST) in 2007, whose management has been entrusted to the Directorate of Attention Basic Health in the Ministry of Health.
This program advocates the fight against discrimination, the reduction of gender inequalities, the promotion and respect of human rights in terms of access to HIV care services, in particular for vulnerable populations.
For people who wish to be screened voluntarily, 25 centers have been made available to them in order to prevent the disease and limit its spread.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Yosra Boudhiaf, a lawyer with the Tunisian Association for Positive Prevention, sounded the alarm, due to the shortage of anti-HIV stock and supply problems.
”HIV carriers are at risk of not receiving treatment for the next few days. They can die at any time,” he said.
And Boudhiaf continues: “The victims have suffered serious interruptions in the supply of medicines for several weeks, which they cannot do without. Even if they resume their treatment after this stop, they are at risk of developing further complications.”
According to her, they not only suffer from this disease but also the consequences of the coronavirus health crisis. Infected people are exposed to a great risk of contamination. “Covid-19 has had, among other things, a “devastating impact” on the fight against AIDS and the health of its victims,” she lambasted.
Asked about the activities of the Association, our speaker referred to the last act in tribute to the victims, whose lives were taken by the virus.
“Recently we organized an initiative under the slogan ‘International Candlelight Memorial Against AIDS’. Through this event, we launch campaigns to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS and pay tribute to those who have dedicated their lives to helping people living with HIV,” he said.
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial today serves as an important platform for global solidarity, breaking down the barriers of stigma and discrimination and bringing hope to new generations.
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