More than 5,000 sexually active men and women are expected to participate in South Africa’s first HIV vaccine clinical trial in seven years. The study to be launched Wednesday (Nov. 30) will include patients between the age of 18-35.
“If deployed alongside our current armory of proven HIV prevention tools, a safe and effective vaccine could be the final nail in the coffin for HIV,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) said according to the New York Times.
“Even a moderately effective vaccine would significantly decrease the burden of HIV disease over time in countries and populations with high rates of HIV infection, such as South Africa.”
HIV has taken a “devastating toll” on the country, said Dr Glenda Gray, chief executive of the South African Medical Research Council, an organization involved in the study.
“But now we begin a scientific exploration that could hold great promise for our country,” Gray added. “If an HIV vaccine were found to work in South Africa, it could dramatically alter the course of the pandemic.”
South Africa has an HIV infection rate of 1,000 people per day yet the new trial named, HVTN 702, doesn’t come without controversy.
The study consists of two vaccine’s ALVAC and AidsVax, the latter of which failed in a solo three-year trial in Thailand involving 16,400 men and women, reports the Guardian. Roughly 125 people became infected with the virus, 51 of which had taken the vaccine.
Despite having the largest global anti-viral treatment program, some 7 million South Africans were living with HIV in 2015, with more than 380,000 new infections that year, and 180,000 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses.