Technically, if you're trying to say that HIV is still serious, you want to use is, not was. You don't have to match tense if you're referring to something that is currently factual. Likewise, you would also say there is no vaccine, because today there currently is no vaccine. There was no vaccine may also be a true statement, but it's not accurately describing what you're trying to say.
But there is also something to what you say about matching tenses. If you are writing an essay or even fiction where most of the events are generally past tense, then you can use was instead of is, even for current facts. It implies that your writing is describing events and facts that belong to a certain period of time. Vaccines or other treatments may have come and gone during that time, but it's not really your concern whether HIV is still a threat when the reader is currently reading your story/article, which could be five, twenty-five, or even a hundred years from now. Frankly it's not overly important to the rest of the story, which is why you can be vague about it. If the detail does happen to be important, you can say there had not been a vaccine instead of there was no vaccine if that more suitably describes the situation.