The Future of Vaccines for Sexually Transmitted Diseases

by Alisha Bridges Patient Advocate

Out of the many vaccines available in the United States, there is currently only one vaccine for one sexually transmitted disease (STD): human papillomavirus, also known as genital warts, or HPV. However, the American Sexual Health Association reports that "more than half of all people will have an STD/STI at some point in their lifetime. The number of STDs transmissions is within some agencies, considered an epidemic among Americans.

If detected in time, STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichmoniasis can be cured with antibiotics without causing permanent damage to the body. On the other hand, diseases like HIV/AIDs are incurable and can have far more serious consequences. Although researchers have made considerable progress in treating HIV/AIDs, there is still work to be done.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines work in five different forms: live vaccines, inactive vaccines, toxoid vaccines, subunit vaccines, and conjugate vaccines. Doctors suggest that any vaccine only be given to people with healthy immune systems due to the fact that vaccines contain a weakened version of a particular virus, germ, or bacteria, which the immune system then needs to recognize and learn to fight.

The good news is that the World Health Organization reports that there are some new developments with vaccines for HIV and the herpes simplex virus.

New developments on HIV

HIV can be transmitted through the sharing of hypodermic needles and in childbirth (if the mother has the virus), but is most commonly contracted through unprotected sex and syringe use. The virus destroys the white blood cells of the immune system, making it difficult for a person to fight off diseases. When and if the virus destroys a vast number of white blood cells and the immune system becomes incapable of creating more, the patient is considered to have AIDs.

Right now there a clinical trial for an HIV vaccine is underway in South Africa.

"If an HIV vaccine were found to work in South Africa, it could dramatically alter the course of the pandemic," said Glenda Gray, the president of the South African Medical Research Council during an interview conducted by The National Institutes of Health.

America's National Institutes of Health, meanwhile, is helping to sponsor the project and reports that the study looks to enroll 5,400 people in the trial. A 2009 trial for a similar vaccine in Thailand showed promising results.

New developments on herpes simplex

Genital herpes is not deadly, but can be considered one of the most variably transmitted STDs. It can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, and oral sex, as well as kissing if a person has an active blister in or around the mouth. Currently, drugs only suppress the symptoms of herpes; for now, the disease is incurable.

There are two vaccines for herpes under examination; Theravax, for those who have not contracted the virus but want to prevent it from happening, and Profavax, for those who currently have the virus.

These new vaccine developments raise more questions about the state of sexual health for the future. If passed and approved by the FDA, will the creation of these vaccines encourage people to have more sex outside of committed relationships? How will all of this affect the condom industry? What are your thoughts on the state of vaccines for fighting sexually transmitted diseases?

Alisha Bridges has battled with severe psoriasis for over 20 years and is the face behind Being Me in My Own Skin, a blog which highlights her life with psoriasis. Her goals are to create empathy and compassion for those who are least understood, through transparency of self, patient advocacy, and healthcare. She is currently a post-bach student at Georgia State University pursuing a career as a Physician's Assistance—her passions are dermatology and sexual health. Alisha also shares her passion as a Social Ambassador of the Psoriasis HealthCentral Facebook page where she shares timely tips, stories and insights on living with psoriasis. You can also find Alisha on Twitter.

Alisha Bridges
Meet Our Writer
Alisha Bridges

Alisha Bridges has dealt with psoriasis since 7 years old after a bad case of chicken pox triggered her disease to spread on over 90% of her body. For years she hid in shame afraid of what people would think of such a visible disease. She has suffered from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks due to psoriasis. Years ago Alisha wrote a letter entitled “My Suicide Letter.” The letter was not about actually killing herself but killing parts of her like low self-esteem, fear, and shame so she could truly live to her fullest potential. This proclamation catapulted her into psoriasis and patient advocacy. Following this letter she created a blog entitled Being Me In My Own Skin where she gives intimate details of what it’s like to live with psoriasis. Alisha is a community ambassador for the National Psoriasis Foundation and has served her community in countless ways to help give a better understanding of what’s it’s like to live with psoriasis. Her life motto is the following: “My purpose is to change the hearts of people by creating empathy and compassion for those the least understood through transparency of self, patient advocacy, and dermatology.” Alisha is also a Social Ambassador for the HealthCentral Skin Health Facebook page.