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NIH Researchers Make Progress In HIV Vaccine Development

“At the Vaccine Research Center at the [NIH], researchers have developed high-resolution images of the AIDS virus at the atomic level,” columnist Michael Gerson writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. He describes this research and the advances scientists have made in learning how to prevent HIV from infecting cells. “The goal is a vaccine that causes the body itself to produce the needed antibodies” to destroy the virus, he writes, adding, “All this matters directly to the 2.3 million people infected with [HIV] each year — including a quarter of a million children. But it is also a tribute to the tenacity and importance of the scientific enterprise.” Gerson concludes, “HIV/AIDS emerged in the early 1980s as a nameless fear, which some initially thought could be transmitted by casual contact. Scientists identified the disease’s true avenues of transmission, researched the antiretroviral drugs that have rendered it a chronic condition for many and have now identified its vulnerabilities at the atomic level — a development that may help understand and counter the next nameless fear” (12/19).