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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 2, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 49
South Africa recruiting for HIV vaccine study
Section One
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South Africa recruiting for HIV vaccine study

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

South African researchers are enrolling subjects for what they describe as the largest HIV vaccine study since 2009.

According to BBC News, South Africa's Medical Research Council plans to enroll 5,400 sexually active young men and women in the study. About seven million people in South Africa are living with the virus, which is one reason why the trial is taking place there.

The vaccine regimen being tested is based on one used in a trial in Thailand in 2009, which had a protection rate of about 30%. Results from South Africa are expected in four years.

'It will tell us whether the initial success observed [at a smaller scale] will bear fruit in the form of a safe and effective HIV vaccine designed for the people of southern Africa,' lead researcher Dr. Glenda Gray said.

As part of the study, participants will receive a total of five injections over one year, says the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is co-sponsoring the trial.

Participants who become HIV positive during the trial will be referred to local medical providers for care and treatment, the NIH adds, and will be advised on how to reduce their risk of transmitting the virus.

Awethu Benenengu, a 20-year-old construction worker, who is one of the participants, told BBC reporter Nomsa Maseko that he volunteered for personal reasons.

'I decided to get involved because I don't like the way my HIV-positive cousin is treated,' Benenengu said.

'There is so much stigma. I want to be part of a generation that changes this, and I want my children to be proud one day of their father for getting involved in making history.'

According to the United Nations, more than 30 million people have died from AIDS since the 1980s.

Recent breakthroughs in antiretroviral treatments have improved the life span of AIDS patients, but the only effective prevention is expensive pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment, or the use of barrier methods such as condoms.

Researchers said they hope the vaccine will be 'the final nail in the coffin' for HIV.

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A year-end wrap up

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