Arkansans react to progress in HIV vaccine research

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 10:05 PM CDT
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FORREST CITY, Ark. (KAIT) - Promising progress has been made in creating an HIV vaccine, according to International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and Scripps Research.

They’re partnering with Moderna to develop and test an mRNA-based vaccine.

It could potentially create rare immune cells and significantly accelerate the pace of vaccine development.

“This disease has been around 30 years plus, and if we can stop it, you know, and I have lost a lot of friends from this disease, so it would be a great success, I think,” said Connie Roebuck, HIV & AIDS activist.

Connie Roebuck has been positive for 25 years. She got diagnosed in 1996 and says it’s time to find a way to end the virus for future generations.

“I had; it gave me neuropathy. I had braces on both of my legs. I had to go through therapy Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays,” said Roebuck.

Roebuck recalls when she was first diagnosed.

“It was horrible because I had to take so many pills a day. I had to take 82 pills a day. I went from 82 to 62, to 42, to 22. Now I only take five,” said Roebuck.

She says treatments and medication have come a long way. Those with HIV and AIDS can live long, normal lives but says ending the virus would significantly benefit the vulnerable population.

“Homeless people who don’t have anywhere to stay, the younger generation. I think this would be a good idea for those people,” said Roebuck.

Carl Abraham, an infectious disease specialist, says the vaccine is a huge step forward to ending the HIV pandemic with over 32 million deaths across the globe but says we still have a long way to go.

“The Moderna vaccine has been tested in monkeys and its preliminary data. The data is promising, but it really doesn’t mean that it’s going to be effective in humans,” said Abraham. “The next step is going to be human trials phase 1.”

Abraham says they are hoping to begin that research by the end of the year.

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