According to US National Institutes of Health, an experimental trial is set to launch this year in South Africa to determine the effectiveness of an HIV vaccine that was earlier tested and showed promising results in previous trials.
The trial will involve 5,400 healthy volunteers aged 18-35 who are at risk of HIV in 15 sites across South Africa starting November this year to test the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness while regulatory review is still underway. All volunteers will be given five shots over a year, either a vaccine or a placebo. Results from the late-stage trial are due to come out in 2020.
‘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,’ said Anthony S. Fauci, MD of the National Institutes of Health and trial co-founder as quoted by UPI.
‘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.’
As per Yahoo News, the injections will have the same HIV vaccine content used in previous trials in Thailand back in 2009 which yielded promising albeit marginal effectiveness. The two-vaccine cocktail used in that experiment managed to reduce the risk of infection by 31% in 3.5 years. Its effectiveness, however, was more pronounced the first year. A similar and ongoing preliminary safety trial in South Africa was also conducted before and the results proved hopeful enough for a more expanded trial.
For the upcoming trial, scientists tweaked the vaccine a little bit to specifically work against the predominant HIV subtype C strain in South Africa and prolong its deemed effectiveness. Additionally, volunteers will also have access to after-care including condoms, counselling, lubricant, clinical assistance with regard to various types of sexually transmitted diseases, and information related to circumcision as well as how acquire medication in the event of an exposure to HIV as mentioned in a report by Reuters.
About 6.8 million people are infected with HIV in South Africa in 2014 according to UNAIDS estimates and, consequently, 140,000 people died from AIDS.