According to the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Trial Registry, Moderna, a biotech company, will begin human trials for two mRNA-based HIV vaccines this week. Moderna will begin Phase I of its research after years of studying the potential for mRNA vaccines to be used for human purposes.
The Phase I trial will involve 56 healthy adults aged between 18 and 50, who are not HIV-positive. The vaccine’s safety will be tested and data collected on its effectiveness in inducing immunity. To determine the effectiveness of the shot and its risks and benefits, Phases II and 3 will be required.
Popular Science reports that the shots use the same technology used in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccination. The mRNA strands are introduced to cells and give them the code to reproduce the exact same proteins found on the virus’ outside. The proteins are recognized by the immune system, which will allow the body to identify the virus and attack it in the future. Researchers are optimistic that HIV treatment could be as successful as the COVID-19 virus mRNA vaccine.
PinkNews reports that a number of HIV vaccines were developed over the years. However, they were not effective in preventing the virus from spreading. Some were stopped due to safety concerns. Scientists have yet to find a cure for HIV. However, they have had some success with treatments such as antiretroviral treatment (ART), which involves daily administration of a combination HIV medications. Although ART can’t cure HIV, it can prolong the life expectancy of HIV-positive people and lower the risk of infection.
Health officials have been advocating for PrEP over the past decade. PrEP is a daily life-saving pill that prevents HIV infection at 99%. Prior to federal guidance, some health insurance companies didn’t cover the treatment cost. The treatment can still be expensive for those who don’t have healthcare coverage. It can cost up to $1,800 per month.
NPR’s James Krellenstein, an advocate from PrEP4All, stated that there isn’t universal insurance in America. “So, the real challenge today is to find out what policies the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services could put in place to ensure that PrEP access for those who don’t have insurance is possible.”
Moderna will launch its clinical trials this week. Researchers are optimistic that the mRNA system will improve the production and use of antibodies and cells necessary to fight the virus.