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HIV Vaccine Still Years Away, Former AIDS Society Head Warns

  • mRNA technology should accelerate HIV shot development: Bekker
  • HIV anti-retroviral lenacapavir seen as potential game-changer
Linda-Gail Bekker
Linda-Gail BekkerPhotographer: Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/AFP/Getty Images

The use of messenger RNA to make vaccines for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic has reinvigorated a decades-long hunt for a shot to safeguard against HIV, but the development process will still be a protracted one, according to a leading South African scientist. 

An HIV vaccine is “more than five years away,” although the application of mRNA technology may help accelerate production, Linda-Gail Bekker, the executive director of the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation and a former president of the International AIDS Society, said in an interview in Cape Town on Tuesday. “There are already five trials with HIV vaccines in the field today using the mRNA platform” but those are still in the earliest stage of human testing and it will likely take three to four years to get to final stage trials, she said.