HIV/AIDS has terrorized the world for decades — now it may finally be defeated.
Global Citizen partner Johnson & Johnson announced on stage at the Global Citizen Festival tonight that they will soon be bringing an HIV vaccine to large scale efficacy testing in humans.
It will be the first global vaccine, able to treat all strains of HIV, to reach this stage of testing.
“Today we are thrilled to announce for the first time, that we are going into large scale efficacy testing of the HIV vaccine in humans. As a scientist and a physician,” Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson. “I can tell you that these results make me more optimistic than ever before that we get to an HIV vaccine in our lifetime.”
When HIV/AIDS was first identified in 1981, scientists were largely stumped by the disease, which went on to ravage nearly every person it infected, ultimately killing 36 million people and counting.
In recent years, after countless medical breakthroughs, the disease and its effects have largely been mapped and those infected can effectively manage it.
But millions of people still lack access to sufficient treatment and even those who do have access still live in a precarious state of containing the disease.
This latest breakthrough by Johnson & Johnson could end up eclipsing all others.
The vaccine has proven to be 100% effective at achieving immunity against every strain of HIV after a small trial of 350 volunteers.
The company has spent millions on the vaccine and it’s the latest step in a decades-long engagement with the disease.
“As a scientist and a physician,” Dr. Stoffels said. “I am excited and motivated by this progress.”
“We are hoping to take this vaccine to the next phase,” he said. “We all know that science is unpredictable. But these results make me more optimistic than ever that we will get to a vaccine in our lifetime and prevent people from HIV forever.”
The next phase will be conducted with help from the Gates Foundation and the National Institute of Health. The vaccine will be tested on 2,600 young women between the ages of 18-35 (the most at-risk population) in five African countries.
The team hopes to ultimately reach an efficacy rate of 90%, but recognizes that even a rate of 50% will be effective, because it would be able to reduce the HIV rate by 35%.
Ultimately, they hope to get the vaccine to the market within five years. Since nearly 2 million get infected with HIV annually, this vaccine will have an immediate impact as soon as its hits the market.
Having been involved in this fight for so long, Johnson & Johnson understands the urgency.
“Global Citizens, you have my promise that all of us at Johnson & Johnson will not rest until we defeat HIV,” said Stoffels.