The search for a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine has been one of the most frustrating chapters of the AIDS saga. Traditional antibody-based vaccine candidates have failed to put up more than a partial shield, partly because of mutations in the virus. Billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates, who spends millions of dollars on AIDS drug development, said that he hoped for a vaccine against the disease within the next decade as a cure remains far off.
Since 1981, around 78 million people have been infected by HIV, which destroys immune cells and leaves the body exposed to tuberculosis, pneumonia and other opportunistic diseases. UN statistics reveal that 39 million have died and about 35 million are living with the immune system-destroying virus today, overwhelmingly in poor countries.
The Microsoft mogul said, "Probably the top priority is a vaccine. If we had a vaccine that can protect people, we can stop the epidemic. The quest for an AIDS vaccine has taken longer than expected, with many disappointments along the way." His charitable Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spends about $400 million a year on AIDS drug research.
Gates further added, "A vaccine, that's a big area of funding for our foundation. But even in the best case that's five years away, and perhaps as long as 10. There will continue to be substantial number of people infected. So we have to keep focused (and) get more efficient. For now, finding a cure does not appear realistic. There's not even animal studies on that yet."