New hope for HIV vaccine

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FILE image of the HIV-Aids ribbon.

JOHANNESBURG – Scientists and top health officials meeting in the US capital have announced a major breakthrough which provides hope for a vaccine that can prevent the spread of HIV.  They have been focusing efforts on a small scale study here in South Africa which is showing success for the first time on a vaccine on the African continent. 

“The testing process may have only involved 252 South Africans, but after a few months, the results of the trail run indicates that we may have gotten to a point of a revolution in HIV prevention and the results are generating a lot of excitement among the world’s top HIV vaccine scientists meeting in Washington” eNCA’s Washington Correspondent Andrea Arenas said.

The breakthrough became possible after a previous study in Thailand, which appeared to reduce infection rates by 60 percent after the first year.

President of the South African Medical Research Council,Glenda Gray says, “We have a tool for them that could protect them. I would like to see an AIDS free generation, I would like to one day retire and know I contributed to finding an HIV vaccine. Best gift that current scientists in South Africa and around the world is to give to the next generation is an HIV vaccine.”

The vaccine has been improved and adapted to target the largest strain of HIV, and the one most prevalent in South Africa. The vaccine has potential to help the most vulnerable to contracting the virus young women included.

Professor Linda-Gail Baker of The Desmond Tutu HIV Centre says, thirty years into an epidemic, it’s a tragedy of enormous proportion. And much of this is simply because that kind of control is not in the hands of young women. If we can find something that can be administered once, or twice, or maybe three or four doses, but once done, that’s incredibly empowering.

The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has now announced a large-scale trial in South Africa to involve 5,400 men and women with the highest risk of contracting HIV.

The beauty is that you get vaccine and in theory you are protected for a long time and you don’t have to remember to take a vaccine, whereas a lot of the other prevention measures are a daily decision that people have to make day in day out, they have to get access to drug, remember their condoms, all those types of things and We think that’s that’s why vaccines have been so successful to really prevent and even in some rare cases, eradicate infections off the face of the earth.” Dr. Mary Marovich of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.

The new large-scale study is expected to begin in October or November of this year and will involve South Africans across the country who are thought to have the highest risk of contracting HIV. That will provide a strong indication of whether this scientific breakthrough could lead to a vaccine with the potential to finally begin to bring HIV under control, not only in Africa, but worldwide.

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