Scientists will conduct a trial of an experimental HIV vaccine in South Africa later this year.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health said last week it would test the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine at 15 sites in South Africa beginning in November, pending regulatory approval.
The trial will include 5,400 healthy volunteers from 18-35 who are at risk of HIV who will receive five injections over a year, vaccine or a placebo. Results are expected in 2020.
The shots will contain HIV vaccine used in Thailand in 2009 — the only vaccine that has shown marginal effectiveness. A two-vaccine combination cut the risk of HIV infection by 31 percent over 3 1/2 years, but it was more effective the first year. NIH said a small safety trial in South Africa showed promising enough results for a wider study.
“For the first time in seven years, the scientific community is embarking on a large-scale clinical trial of an HIV vaccine, the product of years of study and experimentation,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health and trial co-funder. “A safe and effective HIV vaccine could help bring about a durable end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and is particularly needed in southern Africa, where HIV is more pervasive than anywhere else in the world.”
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and its partners have decided to conduct the larger clinical trial called HVTN 702.
The vaccine regimen consists of two experimental vaccines, one that is canary pox-based and another that enhances the body’s immune response to a vaccine.
“While we are making encouraging progress – new HIV infections have fallen by 35 percent globally since 2000 – the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine would be the ultimate game- changer,” Fauci wrote on the NIAID website.
The study will be led by Glenda Gray, president and chief executive officer of the South African Medical Research Council.
It is estimated that 12.2 percent of the South African population (6.4 million persons) are HIV positive, according to United Nations Population Fund.