Scientists have launched the first Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) vaccine efficacy study anywhere, for over seven years, in South Africa. Since the first cases of HIV were reported, 78 million people have become infected with HIV and 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses.
According to the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the study, called HVTN 702, is to test whether an experimental vaccine regimen safely prevents infection among South African adults. It involves a new version of the only HIV vaccine candidate ever shown to provide some protection against the virus.
The experimental vaccine regimen being tested in HVTN 702 is based on the one investigated in the RV144 clinical trial in Thailand led by the United States (U.S.) Military HIV Research Programme and the Thai Ministry of Health. The Thai trial delivered landmark results in 2009 when it found for the first time that a vaccine could prevent HIV infection, albeit modestly. The new regimen aims to provide greater and more sustained protection than the RV144 regimen and has been adapted to the HIV subtype that predominates in southern Africa, a region that includes the country of South Africa, where more than 1,000 people become infected with HIV every day.
Also, to mark World AIDS Day 2016, on Thursday, December 1, the World Health Organisation (WHO) will launch new guidelines on HIV self-testing to encourage countries to promote self-testing and empower more people to test for HIV.
WHO is also launching a new progress report “Prevent HIV: test and treat all – WHO action for country impact”. The report shows that more than 18 million people living with HIV have access to HIV treatment, but many more lack HIV diagnosis and consequently are missing out on treatment.
Meanwhile, Nigeria accounts for more than a quarter of all new HIV infections among children globally and only half of pregnant women living with virus are tested for the disease.