CAPE TOWN: After more than 30 years into the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a vaccine remains elusive—and much needed. Globally, about 35 million people are living with HIV, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS or UNAIDS. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to two-thirds of all people living with HIV/AIDS and the main driver is unprotected heterosexual sex. The only HIV-vaccine clinical trial that has shown potential so far is the United States’ and Thai military’s vaccine, RV144, the results of which were announced in 2009.
The first in a series of trials designed to build on the success of RV144 has now passed a key test in South Africa. More on the science and development of this research in my latest report for The Atlantic "A Promising HIV Vaccine in South Africa." This is the first article in my global health media fellowship to South Africa.
The first in a series of trials designed to build on the success of RV144 has now passed a key test in South Africa. A safety trial using the same vaccine regimen from RV 144—but with an added booster shot 12 months afterward—has has shown to be safe for South Africans and demonstrated “robust” immune responses. A successful safety trial was necessary to move forward with extensive clinical research. The research was first presented in late October by South African scientists in Cape Town. Clinical trials of a modified vaccine tailored to Southern Africa will begin in early 2015.
Southern Africa desperately needs such a vaccine. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to two-thirds of all people living with HIV/AIDS and the main driver is unprotected heterosexual sex, according to the Joint United-Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS. South Africa has the unfortunate distinction of claiming the world’s highest HIV/AIDS burden, with an estimated 6.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS. New infections, called seroconversions, are increasing at about 370,000 per year in that region. That’s about 1,000 new infections every day. About 20 percent of South African adults—that’s one in five people—are living with the virus, reports UNAIDS. Young women are twice as likely to be infected as young men.
Read the full report HERE.
HIV R4P 2014 Cape Town was the world's first and only scientific meeting dedicated exclusively to biomedical HIV prevention research.
HIVR4P and the international media fellowship were sponsored by an international consortium that has pooled resources to "speed the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine." The consortium includes the USA, Thailand and South African governments, the European Union, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNAIDS, World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention, GlaxoSmithKline, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Merck, Novartis, USAID, Sanofi Pasteur, the largest company in the world devoted to vaccine development.