Search for HIV vaccine continues

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Scientists are racing to create a vaccine for the Zika virus which has been strongly linked to small heads and brain damage in babies born in Brazil. After 30 years, scientists still have not found a vaccine for another virus, HIV, but there is more promise of one.

Thirty-nine million people have died worldwide, and 78 million have been infected. That's the toll of HIV and AIDS. One specialist at the University of Kansas Hospital says the virus has always been one or two steps ahead of researchers because it undergoes a lot of mutations.

"The mutations then allow it to change in a way that it's difficult to treat much less even prevent with something like a vaccine," Dr. Dana Hawkinson said.

A study just published holds some early promise. A vaccine was tested that used a common cold virus called an adenovirus with a gene from HIV added.

"It looked like there were very good immune responses to this HIV protein," Dr. Hawkinson said.

It also appeared safe in the testing of both Americans and Africans. But Dr. Hawkinson stresses the research didn't look at whether the vaccine can actually prevent infections when people are exposed through IV drug use or sex. He says it remains important for people to practice safe sex, and if you are high risk, look into medication called PrEP that can help lower your chances of getting HIV.

Dr. Hawkinson said it could still be a decade before an HIV vaccine is widely available. The research is in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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