AA / Tunis / Hajer Cherni
For more than forty years, efforts have been made to find a vaccine against HIV.
Research continues around the world to combat this global pandemic that has killed more than 32 million people since its discovery in 1981.
In celebration of the International Day of the Vaccine Against HIV, which is celebrated on May 18 every year, the Anadolu Agency is taking stock of the situation of these four decades of fighting the disease.
In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) deeply regretted a balance sheet. Worldwide, 680,000 people have died from HIV and at least 1.5 million have tested positive, bringing the number of people living with HIV to 37.7 million by the end of 2020.
Indeed, in early 2000, scientific research progressed and the advent of antiretroviral treatments drastically reduced the death and spread of the virus. Yet this pandemic remains a serious scourge, affecting more and more victims, especially those in poor countries.
— Is there really an HIV vaccine?
According to scientists, a vaccine requires long years of development to achieve more or less concrete results. After all, no vaccine is planned in the near future to prevent possible infection with HIV.
According to data published on the official website of the Institut Pasteur in France, “basic and clinical research, as well as treatment and prevention, made it possible in 2012 to avert the emergence of the pandemic”. However, ”this virus remains a major problem today”.
To eradicate it, according to the Institut Pasteur, it is essential to know more about the mechanisms of infection by HIV, the virus responsible, to advance therapeutic and vaccine research.
Scientists are continuing their research to find a vaccine that can stop this virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
It is also important to understand that AIDS takes time to develop and that the victim will not be ill right away, as it takes several years for HIV to attack the immune defenses.
Why would it be difficult to develop the HIV vaccine?
People with HIV are forced into lifelong treatment. Because it has been proven that there is no cure for this virus.
The complexity of HIV, which can mutate very quickly and escape potential vaccines, has forced scientists to find a specific cure. This truth is supported by the majority of specialists and labs that have struggled to develop a vaccine to date.
You should know that HIV affects the CD4 T lymphocytes, which are a very important part of the immune system. The virus integrates into the genome and the immune system has no way of eliminating it.
— Tunisian HIV-positive people face shortage of anti-HIV drugs
In Tunisia, the fight against HIV remains relevant and the fight against this virus continues by organizing prevention activities through associations, for better sexual health.
In addition, a report from the Joint United Nations Program (UNAIDS) for the year 2019 gave an alarming assessment of the number of people living with HIV or AIDS.
” 4,500 people in the country are HIV-positive, 1,303 of whom are receiving free treatment. The victims include 34 children, 745 men and 524 women,” the report said.
Only 51%, still according to the same source, are aware of their positivity and 32% receive lifelong treatment.
For example, the UN agency reported the registration of 198 cases, including seven children.
Tunisia attaches great importance to respecting the anonymity of HIV/AIDS case reports since the establishment of the National Program to Fight AIDS (PNLS/IST) in 2007, the management of which has been entrusted to the Directorate of Basic health care at 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, especially for vulnerable populations.
For people who want to be screened voluntarily, 25 centers have been made available to prevent the disease and limit its spread.
Yosra Boudhiaf, a lawyer with the Tunisian Association for Positive Prevention, sounded the alarm over a shortage of anti-HIV supplies and supply problems in a conversation with Anadolu Agency.
HIV carriers run the risk of going untreated for the next few days. They could die at any time,” she said.
And Boudhiaf continues: “For several weeks now, the victims have suffered from serious disruptions in the supply of medicines, which they cannot do without. Even if they resume treatment after this stop, they run the risk of developing new complications.”
According to her, they suffer not only from this disease, but also from the consequences of the health crisis of the coronavirus. Infected people are at high risk of infection. “Covid-19 has, among other things, a ‘devastating impact’ on the fight against AIDS and the health of its victims,” she said.
Asked about the activities of the Association, our speaker mentioned the latest event as a tribute to the victims, whose lives were torn away by the virus.
”We recently organized an initiative under the theme ”International AIDS Candlelight Memorial”. During this event, we launched campaigns to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS and pay tribute to those who have dedicated their lives to helping people living with HIV,” she said.
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial today serves as an important platform for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination and giving hope to new generations.
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