The available antiretroviral therapies are effective and ensure an excellent quality of life for individuals living with HIV infection, but a vaccine capable of controlling the infection is not yet available.

This is why the research teams Evolution and Viral Transmission, led by Dr. Gabriella Scarlatti, and the Infectious Diseases Unit, led by Professor Antonella Castagna, both from the IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital, have initiated a randomized controlled phase I clinical trial aimed at people living with HIV to test the safety profile and level of immune response of a new vaccine, HIVconsvX, with potential therapeutic purposes.

The vaccine is provided by Professor Tomas Hanke of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford and has already been tested previously with encouraging results in volunteers without HIV infection.

There are 85.6 million people worldwide living with HIV, including 160,000 in Italy, where new infections diagnosed in 2022 are approximately 2,000. “AIDS and HIV infection are far from disappearing. The search for new treatments, including vaccines, is therefore an absolute priority of the international scientific community,” says Gabriella Scarlatti.

Currently, available antiretroviral drugs successfully block the replication of the virus and make its presence in the blood undetectable, making the life expectancy of a person living with HIV comparable to that of the general population. However, antiretroviral therapies, even if they are long-acting drugs that can be administered at long intervals, must be continued for a lifetime.

“Their interruption induces, in most cases, a viral rebound, or a reappearance of the plasma viral load within 3-4 weeks,” says Professor Castagna.

In addition to requiring strict adherence for their effectiveness, further issues lie in the possibility of side effects related to the long duration of intake. Lastly, all these therapies are difficult to access for populations in developing countries.

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