Infections with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and the resulting epidemic of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), are the sixth leading cause of death worldwide. In 2004, HIV/AIDS was responsible for 2 million deaths, or 3.5% of all deaths globally (World Health Organization 2008). Because HIV/AIDS affects children as well as adults, the disease accounts for 5.6% of all years of life lost globally, a disproportionately high amount (World Health Organization 2008). The number of people living with HIV worldwide continues to grow. In 2008, an estimated 2.7 million new HIV infections occurred, including 430,000 new infections in children under 15 years of age, and the total population of HIV infected individuals reached approximately 33.4 million (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 2009a). The total number of people living with the virus in 2008 was more than 20% higher than the number in 2000, and the prevalence was roughly threefold higher than in 1990. HIV-related mortality also remains high: an estimated 2 million deaths due to AIDS-related illness occurred worldwide in 2008, including roughly 300,000 deaths in children under the age of 15 (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 2009a). Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most affected and is home to two-thirds of all people living with HIV worldwide, as well as over 90% of all new infections among children (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 2009b). Although significant advances have been made in antiretroviral therapy, HIV infection can only be managed and not cured. Once HIV infects an individual, the virus overcomes every challenge presented by the immune system. An infected person must remain on treatment medications for life, and such medications are not universally available in developing countries; only 42% of those in need had access to treatment in 2008 (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 2009b). An effective HIV vaccine is urgently needed to protect individuals from contracting the virus. The vaccine must be inexpensive; simple to administer; effective against all HIV subtypes; and capable of inducing long-lasting immunity. Unfortunately, efforts at developing a HIV vaccine have been unsuccessful, as the virus presents two major obstacles to vaccine research. First, HIV is characterized by enormous genetic diversity. Second, HIV establishes a chronic infection in the context of an unprimed immune system (Surman et al. 2009). Polymeric biomaterials have a potential role to play in HIV vaccines , because synthetic polymers can function as immunomodulators and vaccine adjuvants . Such adjuvants can be administered with either peptide-based vaccines on DNA-based vaccines and may potentiate the immune response to HIV vaccines. Biomaterial adjuvants could be utilized to deliver and enhance HIV vaccines, thereby stopping the spread of the virus, and ultimately preventing morbidity and mortality from HIV/AIDS.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection Acquire Immune Deficiency Syndrome PLGA Microparticle Latent Reservoir 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Central Research and Development, DuPont CompanyWilmingtonUSA

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