Department of Health Reminds Pennsylvanians about the Importance of Finding a Vaccine for HIV

HARRISBURG, Pa. – In observance of HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy today stressed the importance of finding a vaccine that protects people worldwide from getting infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“Today we recognize the many medical and research professionals and volunteers who have given their time and effort to finding a HIV vaccine,” said Murphy. “The goal continues to be to find a cure for HIV. Until then, finding better treatments and vaccines that alter the course of how HIV interacts with the immune system will lead to positive health benefits for infected individuals and those at risk of infection.”

Currently, there are an estimated 1.1 million people in the United States and 34 million people globally who are living with HIV infection. In 2011, 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related causes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Pennsylvania had the tenth highest total number of HIV diagnoses of all states in the nation in 2013.

The HIV virus is unique in its ability to evade the immune system, making the development of a vaccine extremely difficult. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent HIV. Developing safe, effective, affordable and durable vaccines that can prevent HIV infection in uninfected people is the best hope for controlling and/or ending the HIV epidemic.

Since the use of vaccines is the most effective way to prevent and even eradicate infectious diseases, developing an HIV vaccine could save millions of lives around the world. A partially effective HIV vaccine would still have a major impact on the number of persons becoming infected with HIV, reducing the spread of HIV infection and assisting in the control of the epidemic, especially for high risk populations and in areas with a high rate of HIV transmission.

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