A therapeutic vaccine to inhibit the spread of HIV will be available within five years, according to a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who helped discover the virus.
Luc Montagnier, director of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, said he thinks it is "a matter of four to five years" before such a vaccine is developed. Restricting the transmission of HIV, he said, would change how the disease is managed and controlled.
Montagnier, 76, said a therapeutic vaccine, to be given to those who are already infected in order to inhibit the likelihood of transmission, would be a key step in fighting the virus. By comparison, a preventative vaccine would protect people from contracting HIV in the first place.
"Our job, of course, is to find complementary treatment to eradicate the infection. I think it's not impossible to do it within a few years," Montagnier said in Stockholm, according to Reuters.
"So I hope to see in my lifetime the eradication of, not the AIDS epidemic, but at least the infection. This could be achieved."
The French scientist did not explain why he believes the discovery will be made in that specific time frame. While medications exist that lessen the effects of the disease for those who have been infected, none has been created that prevents or cures an HIV infection.
About 33 million people across the world have been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.
Montagnier, along with his colleague Françoise Barré -Sinoussi, 61, won the Nobel Prize for medicine this year for their discovery of the virus.
Last May marked the 25th anniversary of the a report, published in the journal Science of by Montagnier and colleagues of La Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital and the Institute Pasteur in Paris that indicated they had discovered the cause of the then little-known disease known as AIDS.
"A retrovirus belonging to the family of recently discovered human T-cell leukemia viruses (HTLV), but clearly distinct from each previous isolate, has been isolated from a Caucasian patient with signs and symptoms that often precede the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)," their report began.
Montagnier and his colleagues named the newly discovered pathogen lymphadenopathy-associated virus or LAV. But it was subsequently renamed the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.
Barré -Sinoussi, who was also in Stockholm Saturday in advance of Nobel festivities that end with a banquet and awards ceremony Dec. 10, said scientists have a responsibility to try to use their work to inform public — and political — opinion.
"Still, 25 years after the HIV discovery, [there is] discrimination, stigmatization against HIV-infected individuals — even criminalization. This is not acceptable. This is really not acceptable," Barre-Sinoussi said, according to Reuters.