New HIV vaccine to undergo trials in South Africa

20 July 2016

A vaccine against HIV would undergo trials in South Africa later this year. The drug could help fight the HIV epidemic in Africa after meeting the criteria needed to prove its efficacy against the virus.

Of the 2.1 million new infections reported in 2015, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for two-thirds of the cases.

A small trial, known as HVTN100, was conducted in South Africa in 2015 to test the safety and strength of immunity the vaccine could provide, ahead of any larger-scale testing in affected populations.

Two-hundred and fifty-two healthy volunteers received either the vaccine, known as ALVAC-HIV/gp120, or a placebo to compare the extent of the generated immune response. The results were presented yesterday at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.

"This was precautionary to see if the vaccine looks promising," CNN reported quoting Linda Gail Bekker, deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, and president-elect of the International AIDS Society, who is leading the vaccine trials.

The vaccine comes after a landmark trial in Thailand in 2009 that was the first to show any protection against HIV, with 31 protections against the virus, which generated much excitement among experts in the field.

"The obvious question is: Can we now replicate those results and can we improve upon them with greater breadth, depth and potency?" CNN added quoting Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease, whose organisation has sponsored the study.

Meanwhile, speaking out in an impassioned opening ceremony speech at the 2016 International AIDs Conference, yesterday, actress Charlize Theron charged that not enough was being to end the ongoing epidemic affecting Africa's population.

The Hollywood actress who is also an AIDS activist and founder of the the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, said during her speech at the 21st annual conference's Durban, Africa, opening ceremony, "I think it is time that we acknowledge that something is terribly wrong."

"It's time to face the truth about the unjust world we live in, the truth is we have every tool we need to prevent the spread of HIV ... let's ask ourselves why haven't we beaten this epidemic. Could it be because we don't want to?"

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