South Africa: Clinical trials on new HIV vaccine begin

Photo credit: Africanews

Clinical trials have begun in South Africa on a new vaccine against HIV, the virus that causes Aids. First volunteers received the injection on wednesday, in the exercise that scientists say is the first large study of an HIV vaccine’s effectiveness since 2009.

Glenda Gray, Director of the South African Medical Research Council who’s leading the study said: “Our target is young girls and young men, adolescents, before their first sexual intercourse, and we’d like to create a school-based program, so one of the things we’re going to do in parallel with this is starting to focus on vaccine resistance in groups of different age groups. “

Researchers hope that if this study code-named HVTN 702 is successful, it could potentially drop the curtains on the virus. The study also aims to enroll 5,400 sexually active young men and women.

“South Africa is the most affected by the HIV epidemic, and we have the largest number of cases in our country, yes we have taken action but that is not enough. We are so proud to launch this study HVTN 702 because it marks the beginning of a new era. If this vaccine is safe and effective it could help save millions of South African lives,” said Mookho Malahleha, clinical researcher working on the project.

Media sources say, the vaccine regime being tested is based on one used in a trial in Thailand in 2009, which had a protection rate of about 30%. Results from South Africa are expected in four years.

The trials will run over a period of 24 to 36 months. HVTN 702 is a modified version of a previously tested vaccine called RV144, with a number of improvements tailoring it to target an HIV strain common in South Africa.

HIV/Aids directly affects roughly 36.7 million worldwide and kills over 1 million each year. In Africa alone, HIV infects more than 1,000 people every day. “HIV has taken a devastating toll in South Africa, but now we begin a scientific exploration that could hold great promise for our country,” said Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council.

HVTN 702, developed by Sanofi Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKlein, is only the seventh vaccine to be subjected to a full-scale human trial. But overall, HIV research has seen considerable progress, writes Futurism.