A HIV vaccine trial set to begin in South Africa in November will be the first time that the scientific community has set out to do a large-scale HIV vaccine trial in seven years according to the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony S. Fauci. Although cases of HIV worldwide have been on the decline, Fauci says that developing an effective vaccine would be a significant discovery.
The Thailand HIV Vaccine
This trial will be based on the previous large-scale trial conducted in Thailand in 2009. The Thailand vaccine is the only one that has been shown to have any effectiveness against HIV. Known as the RV 144 trial and led by the U.S. Military HIV Research Program, that experimental vaccine was 60 percent effective a year after vaccination although in 3.5 years its effectiveness dropped to 31.2 percent.
HVTN 100: A Preliminary Trial
In Cape Town, South Africa, at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, an early stage trial known as HVTN 100 administered a version of the vaccine adapted for the South African strain of the virus. This vaccine has two parts. One is canarypox-based and the other is an immune booster.
The regimen consists of eight injections and booster shots at the end. The protein used in it has been adjusted from the version in RV 144 in the hopes of boosting the immune response. This trial is still ongoing and has a total of 252 participants ages 18-40 who are considered at risk for the virus. The experimental vaccine was given to 210 participants. The other 42 received a placebo. Participants have also received counseling on how to avoid the virus.
The larger trial scheduled to begin in November will be known as HVTN 702. One of its aims will be to try to make the vaccination more effective and longer-lasting.
The trial will be overseen by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and led by president and chief executive officer of the South Africa Medical Research Council Glenda Gray. The study will be conducted by the HIV Vaccine Trails Network which is funded by the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
The vaccine will be distributed at 15 sites throughout South Africa to 5,400 healthy people ages 18-35 who are at risk for the disease. Participants will receive the vaccine or a placebo, assigned at random, in the form of five injections over the course of one year with results expected in 2020.
Like the HVTN 100 vaccine, the HVTN 702 vaccine regimen consists of a canarypox-based vaccine and a vaccine that boosts the body’s immune system. After one year, participants will also receive booster shots. This is part of an effort to extend the duration of the vaccine’s effectiveness as was seen in the first year of the Thailand vaccine.
During the trial, participants’ safety will be monitored, and they will also receive counseling in how to prevent becoming infected. Participants who do become infected will receive counseling in how to avoid spreading the disease and will be referred to medical providers locally for treatment.
Approximately 6.4 million people in South Africa are HIV positive. This represents about 12.2 percent of the country’s total population.
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