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SA could find an HIV vaccine in 10 years

South Africa leads the way in HIV vaccine research with a large trial set to begin before the end of the year.

VaccinationsA new study set to start in South Africa in 2016 could lead to a licenced HIV vaccine in less than 10 years – the first preventive HIV vaccine worldwide, according to Dr Larry Corey who is the Principle Investigator for the trial.

Speaking at the 21st International Aids Conference in Durban, Corey said the HVTN 702 trial, which will enrol 5400 HIV negative South African men and women, is “pivotal” to the future of vaccine research especially as it has been developed specifically for the type of HIV most common in the country – termed Clade C.

Women would benefit most

This large scale efficacy trial, the first since the RV144 vaccine study of seven years ago, is critically important to young women, according to Professor Glenda Gray, who heads up the country’s Medical Research Council and also is one of the study’s leaders.

“You put it in the arm and it works in the vagina. It is discrete so will work in settings of intimate partner violence and where safe sex can’t be negotiated – which are common for women in South Africa,” she said.

According to Gray the study builds on the only HIV vaccine to show efficacy to date – the RV144 regimen which reduced HIV infection rates in Thai volunteers by 31 percent over three and half years, announced in 2009.

Year of vaccine research in SA

“We tried to understand these results and replicate them to create a candidate for the worst affected region in the world – southern Africa.”

For the past six years she and her colleagues have worked on the HVTN 100 trial – a small scale study among 252 South Africans which met the criteria to launch the much larger HVTN 702 efficacy trial. HVTN 100 showed similar efficacy in some aspects to the Thai trial. But in others, it exceeded it.

She predicts HVTN 702 to achieve a 50 percent reduction – significantly higher than the Thai candidate.

“The HIV vaccine field is open for business,” she said. – Health-e News

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