South Africa Launches HIV/AIDS Vaccine Trial

“The first clinical trial of an HIV/AIDS vaccine designed and developed in South Africa was launched in Cape Town” Monday, the SAPA/The Times reports. The trial will seek to determine the immune response of HIV-negative people to two experimental vaccines — SAAVI DNA-C2 and SAAVI MVA-C (7/20).

Similar tests of the vaccine began in the U.S. earlier this year, the AP/Washington Post reports. The University of Cape Town developed the experimental vaccines with technical assistance and manufacturing of the vaccine provided by the NIH, according to Anthony Mbewu, president of South Africa’s Medical Research Council. “With 5.2 million already infected and with hundreds getting infected every day despite all the condom distribution and behavioral education programs, we know that a vaccine really is what we need,” Mbewu said, adding, “When the next influenza pandemic hits the world, every country will be scrambling to develop a vaccine … so it is important that countries like South Africa have the technology and capacity to develop vaccines and the industry to manufacture them” (Faul, 7/20).

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the partnership between South Africa and the U.S. “the most important AIDS research partnership in the world,” but cautioned the years ahead would prove challenging as researchers test the safety and efficacy of the HIV vaccine, the AP/ reports.

“South Africa was the site of the biggest setback to AIDS vaccine research, when the most promising vaccine ever, produced by Merck & Co. and tested here in 2007, found that people who got the vaccine were more likely to contract HIV than those who did not,” the news service writes, adding that “AIDS vaccine research is so filled with disappointments some activists are questioning the wisdom of continuing such expensive investments. They say the money might be better spent on prevention and education” (Faul, 7/20).

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