During a press conference this morning about police reform, Donald Trump used the moment to boast about his supposed successful efforts in the pandemic response.
While speaking about the possibilities of a future vaccine for COVID-19, Trump used the success of HIV treatment as a parallel. However, in doing so the president falsely suggested to the public that there is an “AIDS vaccine.”
“Before the end of the year I predict we will have a very successful vaccine, therapeutic and cure [for COVID-19],” he said. “We’re making tremendous progress. I deal with these incredible scientists, doctors very closely. I have great respect for their minds. They have come up with things. They’ve come up with many other cures and therapeutics over the years.”
He continued, “They’ve come up with the AIDS vaccine,” later adding, “Or the AIDS, and as you know there’s various things, and now various companies are involved in the therapeutic for AIDS. AIDS was a death sentence and now people live a life with a pill. It’s an incredible thing.”
THE TRUTH IS THERE IS NO AIDS VACCINE.
HIV treatment has reached incredible heights in the last decade since the onset of antiretrovirals. Today, people living with HIV can now be treated with daily medication that suppresses their viral load to such low levels that they became “undetectable,” which means it’s impossible to transmit the virus to others.
HIV treatment is not the same as a vaccine or a cure.
To be clear, a vaccine is a treatment you take before acquiring a virus or infectious disease that permantently prevents you from contracting it in the future. It works by stimulating your immune system to produce antibodies like it would if you were exposed to the disease. That helps your body develop immunity without having to get the disease first.
While the goal of HIV prevention tools like PrEP are to drastically reduce HIV contractions long-term, it should never be interpreted as a "cure" or "vaccine."
PrEP is a prevention strategy that when taken routinely makes it virtually impossible to contract HIV. Even though recent breakthroughs around PrEP — such as ViiV Healthcare’s new long-acting injectable that is administered every two months, though it has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration — have been successful, it is not a vaccine for HIV itself but rather a strategy for people who are most at risk of contracting the virus.
People who are practicing PrEP are still able to contract HIV after they stop taking PrEP routinely, which is not the same as those who would take a vaccine.
A "cure" would be a treatment one takes only after they’ve acquired a virus or disease.
That treatment will essentially kill the virus, rendering a person “cured.” We have not hit that milestone in HIV treatment yet.