Facts of HIV

HIV is an immunodeficency virus that can be spread from an HIV positive person's body fluids to an HIV negative person through contact of body fluids with mucous membrane, bloodstream, or damaged tissue. During vaginal or anal sex, the highest risk of transmitting HIV is when there is no condoms and/or preventative medicine involved. While there is treatment for HIV, there is no cure. However, preventative medicine such as Pre-Exposure Prohylaxis (PrEP) can reduce the chances of contracting HIV.

If you'd like to find out more about HIV, please refer to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's website here.

A well-developed and successful vaccine is our best hope for ending the HIV epidemic.



Vaccines 101

HIV vaccines are being studied to see if they can prevent infection or slow down disease progression in people who become infected with HIV.

What is a vaccine?

  • A vaccine is a product that causes the immune system to produce antibodies that will protect against a disease. The immune system is your body’s disease fighting mechanism.
  • Vaccines have been used for decades around the world, they are the most effective tool we have to prevent many infectious diseases.

How might HIV vaccines work?

  • HIV vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies (proteins that kill virus found free-floating in the blood) and/or cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTLs or "killer T cells" that destroy HIV infected cells).

HIV vaccines under study DO NOT contain real HIV and therefore cannot cause HIV infection!

How are HIV vaccines tested?

  • Once potenial vaccine products pass laboratory trials and animal testing, they are tested by humans. All newly developed drugs undergo the same process for FDA-approval.
  • After laboratory and animal trials, studies with humans are done in three phases:
    • Phase 1 – Small number of participants, usually low-risk for contracting the virus. Documenting safety of vaccine is main objective.
    • Phase 2 – Larger number of participants. Measure safety and immune response to the vaccine.
    • Phase 3 -- Hundreds to thousands of participants to see if the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing HIV infection amongst a large population.

Are there risks in HIV vaccine studies?

  • Any vaccine can cause side effects. For the most part these are minor (for example, a sore arm or low-grade fever) and go away within a few days. We don’t know all of the risks of HIV vaccines.
  • Volunteers can test HIV antibody positive due to the immune system’s response to vaccination, even when they do not have HIV.
  • Volunteers may experience social harms from immigration, incarceration, military, health/life insurance services and social stigmatization.

Before enrolling in a HIV vaccine study, our staff will review this information with you.

It is unlikely that HIV vaccines will be 100% effective.  Therefore, condoms are needed to provide protection against HIV and STDs. HIV vaccines could also be used in combination with other ways to prevent HIV infection such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).