The next six years will see the culmination of a thirty-year hunt for a vaccine against HIV, according to a British HIV researcher leading the search.
Professor Weber has been working towards the goal of an effective HIV vaccine since 1985. He told doctors and leading HIV clinicians in Liverpool today:
"By the end of this decade I believe we will have reached a defining moment in the history of HIV vaccination research. We will be able to say with confidence if a generation of work has delivered an effective HIV vaccine candidate.
“If not we will know that our current technology is not enough. We will require an as-yet unmade scientific breakthrough.
"We have seen success, albeit with rates of protection which are too low. Perhaps the HIV vaccine research community can learn from our highly successful Olympic athletes. Marginal gains can really add up to success.
"A series of minor improvements in the vaccines we currently have will optimise their potency.”
It comes as the number of those living with the virus in the UK reaches 100,000, and the reason the virus is spreading faster than it ever has before is because of the the amount of people, estimated at around 20,000, who are unaware of their infections.
The number of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK has reached a record high, passing 100,000 for the first time, the Terrence Higgins Trust said.
Though the number is "worryingly high" according to Paul Ward from the Terrence Higgins Trust, it is better to have people diagnosed and getting the world class treatment available in the UK, than continuing unaware of their infection.
The Terrence Higgins Trust has welcomed the changes announced by the Department of Health today that will enable those living with HIV to carry out certain procedures in patients.
Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive at Terrence Higgins Trust said:
Advances in medication have transformed what it means to live with HIV, and it’s great to see regulations starting to catch up. People diagnosed in good time can have full, healthy lives, and effective treatment dramatically reduces the risk of the virus being passed on. So long as the right safeguards are in place, there is now no reason why a dentist or a midwife with HIV should be barred from treating patients, or why people who would prefer to test at home should be denied that chance.
Legislation plays a vital role in shaping attitudes. We hope these changes continue to improve public understanding of HIV and support for those living with the virus.
Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National Aids Trust has hailed the new policy for NHS workers with HIV for being "based on up-to-date scientific evidence and not on fear, stigma or outdated information".
Allowing healthcare workers living with HIV to undertake exposure-prone procedures corrects the current guidance which offers no more protection for the general public but keeps qualified and skilled people from working in the career they had spent many years training for.