Govt backs programme to develop AIDS vaccine in India

The Translational Health Sciences and Technology Institute (THSTI), an autonomous institute of the government's Department of Biotechnology, and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) have announced an agreement to jointly operate and fund an HIV vaccine design programme in India.

A new laboratory in THSTI campus in New Delhi will be established under the programme. The programme is expected to cost Rs50 crore over a five year period.

The programme is aimed at addressing one of the greatest scientific challenges of AIDS vaccine design and development, stimulating the release of antibodies capable of neutralising a broad spectrum of circulating HIV variants, a problem that largely stems from the almost unparalleled mutability of HIV.

According to MK Bhan, secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, with 7,100 people newly infected with HIV every day, effective tools to prevent infection are indispensable to the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Meanwhile, patients who have tested positive for HIV gathered in New Delhi under the banner of the Indian Drug Users Forum (IDUF) to oppose the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with European Union under which access to affordable medicines would be denied to them.

According to Rajiv Kafle, a member of the Asia Pacific Network of the HIV-Positive People, the drugs are the lifelines of the HIV affected persons and the government would deal a deadly blow to patients if it yields to the EU dictum.