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HIV Vaccines To Be Tested In South Africa Amidst Pandemic Killing 1 Million Africans A Year

Update Date: Nov 29, 2016 09:30 AM EST
AIDS Treatment Advocates March On US Consulate For Increased Funding
HIV/AIDS activists demonstrate in front of the American consulate on June 17, 2010 in the Johannesburg suburb of Sandton, South Africa. More than a thousand demonstrators marched demanding that the US government increase its funding for anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) to treat Africans with HIV/AIDS. South Africa has the most people living with HIV of any nation in the world. (Photo : John Moore/Getty Images)

HIV vaccines will be tested in the largest clinical trials ever performed in South Africa where the vaccine will use a strain specific to the HIV pandemic in the country. The aim is to reduce or prevent HIV infection in South Africa where one million Africans die from the disease every year.

The HIV virus which causes AIDS has infected two million Africans a year with half of these succumbing to the complications brought by the disease. HIV infection is at a pandemic level in South Africa, prompting medical researchers to perform clinical trials in the country using a vaccine that targets the C clade, a particular strain of the virus that is prevalent in South African HIV infections.

The HIV vaccines will be tested on 5,400 sexually active men and women with ages ranging from 18 to 35-years-old. The group will be randomly assigned to receive the active vaccine regimen or the placebo. Each test subject will receive five injections a year with three booster shots.

The aim of the HIV clinical trial is to reduce the number of HIV infections among the test subjects through the use of a vaccine. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the United States leads the trials with the hope of combining a moderately effective vaccine with the current HIV prevention arsenal.

Fauci claims that even a moderately effective vaccine will have a significant effect in reducing the numbers of HIV infections. The HIV vaccine may be the "final nail in the coffin" according to Fauci, Fox News reported.

The HIV vaccine clinical trials have a precedent when a similar vaccine was used in Thailand in 2008. The success rate of the trials was placed at 31.2 percent after three and a half years of follow-up and monitoring on the test subjects. Fauci and his team were hoping to reach 90 percent effectiveness but admit that this may be a long shot given how HIV and the body's immune system interact, RT reported.

Nonetheless, the HIV vaccines clinical trials will significantly contribute to existing research on HIV cure. South Africa is the most high-risk group, given the existing HIV pandemic, so any success rate no matter how minimal will have a vital effect on prevention efforts.

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