HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 may not seem to have a lot in common, but the relatively rapid development and distribution of the latter's vaccines compared to the stalled and disappointing parallel efforts concerning a vaccine for HIV over the last 40 years begs a discussion.

Scientifically speaking, what is it that makes HIV so much harder to vaccinate against than other infections? How does the effort to create an HIV vaccine compare to other research efforts of the late 20th and early 21st centuries? And perhaps most important: Do successful COVID-19 vaccines use techniques or technologies that may benefit treatment or prevention options relating to HIV?

Why an HIV vaccine is so elusive

HIV has three inherent traits that make it difficult to vaccinate against:

  • Replication: Once inside the body, HIV replicates itself with a frequency and efficiency that has presented distinct challenges to treatment and vaccine development. Modern treatments