A new trial to test an HIV vaccine will be underway in November, pending regulatory approval, according to an NIH news release. The trial, funded by NIH, will reveal whether the regimen is safe, tolerable and effective at preventing HIV among South African adults.
“For the first time in seven years, the scientific community is embarking on a large-scale clinical trial of an HIV vaccine, the product of years of study and experimentation,” Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and co-funder of the trial, said. “A safe and effective HIV vaccine could help bring about a durable end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and is particularly needed in southern Africa, where HIV is more pervasive than anywhere else in the world.”
The study, called HVTN 702, is based on an earlier trial conducted by the U.S. Military HIV Research Program, the RV144 clinical trial in Thailand, which was found to be 31% effective at HIV prevention. Study participants will be given five injections over a period of one year and then followed for one to two years.
The Johannesburg news website, Times Live, states, “South Africa has about 6.4 million people with HIV — the highest incidence in the world — and it has the world’s biggest treatment programme with 3.2 million people on antiretrovirals and there are plans to expand this by 300,000 a year.”
Contributing factors of HIV infection include poverty, inequality and social instability; high levels of sexually transmitted infections; low status of women; sexual violence; high mobility; limited access to care; and a history of poor leadership in the response to the epidemic, according to the AIDS Foundation of South Africa website. “Research shows high levels of knowledge about the means of transmission of HIV and understanding of methods of prevention. However, this does not translate into HIV-preventive behaviour. Behaviour change and social change are long-term processes, and the factors that predispose people to infection … cannot be addressed in the short term.” according to the same website.
The South African trial comes on the heels of a Reuters news item stating researchers believe a parasitic worm may boost the likelihood of HIV infection among women. “Women are three times more likely to be infected with HIV if they have female genital schistosomiasis, studies carried out in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique have found,” the Thomas Reuters Foundation article stated. “The treatment for schistosomiasis is cheap — the drug has been donated for years to the World Health Organization, so this could be a relatively easy way to help cut the spread of HIV.”
The AIDS Foundation of South Africa says a holistic approach to prevention and strategic partnerships are key to achieving significant results. “It is imperative to acknowledge that there exists complex dynamic between the HIV, culture, societal and demographic context and traditional sexual behaviour,” according to the AFSA website. “Examining the spread of HIV in the context of development, political and structural change in South Africa lies in the communities and lives of the people with whom we work. In order to understand the multiple factors that contribute to the spread of HIV it is important to acknowledge varying issues involved in the epidemic: poverty, unemployment and uncertainty, violence and limited access to crucial services.”
Read more about HIV trials in the article “Earlier care for HIV lowers AIDS risk.”
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