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Meet the man behind a new HIV vaccine that could help end the virus for good.

Dr. Robert Gallo has spent decades aiming to end AIDS.

Meet the man behind a new HIV vaccine that could help end the virus for good.

If there ever were a pioneer in the war on AIDS, Dr. Robert Gallo would certainly fit the bill.


Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.


He was among the leading researchers who discovered HIV actually causes AIDS back in 1984.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

That may seem like common knowledge today. But back in the 1980s — when the AIDS crisis was ravaging communities across the U.S. and very little was known about the virus — it was nothing short of groundbreaking.

He then spearheaded a blood test that can detect the virus in humans.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

The blood test has had big ramifications in curbing HIV infections, as health care workers became equipped to rapidly diagnose infected patients.

And on Oct. 8, 2015, Gallo was at it again, announcing yet another big step in the fight against HIV: His potentially game-changing vaccine is going to human trial.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

Sure, there are other HIV-fighting vaccines in human trial (about 30, in fact). But Gallo's vaccine, which has taken his team at the University of Maryland's Institute of Human Virology nearly two decades to produce, stands out ... in a good way.

There are many strains of HIV that can affect the immune system. And that makes creating a universal vaccine that stops all of them a bit tricky. If proven successful, however, Gallo's vaccine would protect patients' immune systems from the variations of the virus classified under "HIV-1," which constitutes the vast majority of infections worldwide.

"Our HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate is designed to bind to the virus at the moment of infection, when many different strains of HIV found around the world can be neutralized. We believe this mechanism is a major prerequisite for an effective HIV preventive vaccine." — Dr. Gallo

Enrollment in the trial opened this month, and the institute is looking for 60 people to participate in its year-long phase 1, according to The Baltimore Sun.

It's a promising step forward in the fight against a virus that's had a massive impact on global health.

There are about 35 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the world, according to the World Health Organization. About 1.5 million people died from the virus in 2013 alone. Sub-Saharan Africa — where nearly 71% of people living with HIV globally reside — has been affected far more than other regions of the world.

An HIV-positive mother holds her baby in Malawi. Photo by Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images.

Although new medicines have helped HIV patients live longer, healthier lives, there is still no cure for the virus. And even for those fortunate enough to be living in regions with access to such medicines, drugs can be expensive (although that doesn't stop some greedy pharmaceutical company CEOs from inflating prices even further ... yeah, I'm talking about you, Martin Shkreli).

Gallo's vaccine could be huge. But even if it turns out to be, there are plenty of hurdles before patients can benefit.

Gallo's announcement is exciting! But let's not put the cart before the horse. Before the vaccine gets clearance from the FDA and becomes a welcomed reality for patients, it has to successfully pass a range of human trials. And that will take several years to complete.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

But Gallo is confident the long road ahead will bring promising results.

"Can I promise absolute success? No," Gallo said of the vaccine's potential, according to The Baltimore Sun. "Do I hope it leads to a series of advances in the fields? Yes. And I think it will lead to some advances."

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.