New HIV vaccine for South Africans

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From November, 5400 South Africans will begin testing an HIV vaccine designed specifically for South Africans.

The vaccine – a modified version of the Thai vaccine RV144 which showed it can reduce chances of HIV infection by 30% – will be tested on 5 400 HIV-negative men and women across 15 sites in South Africa.

This was revealed by Linda-Gail Bekker – the Deputy Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre in Cape Town and President-Elect of the International AIDS Society – at the International Aids conference in Durban today.

Bekker, who was the protocol chairperson of the HVTN 100 trial, which looked at the safety and tolerability of the Thai vaccine among South Africans, said the vaccine showed good levels of immune responses among South Africans.

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She explained that the “HVTN 100 used the same vaccines that RV144 tested, but made them specific to the Clade C subtype of HIV, which is widespread in southern Africa.”

“We also changed the adjuvant used with one of the vaccines, with the goal of eliciting a more powerful immune response, and added a booster injection to prolong the period of protection. All the criteria were met unequivocally and, in many instances, the HVTN 100 outcomes exceeded both our own criteria and the immune responses seen in RV144,” she said.

The large-scale local trial will be named HVTN 702 and participants will receive five injections over the course of a year. Follow-ups will be made over two years to establish whether the vaccine elicits a sustained protective effect.

The trial will also seek to confirm earlier findings from HVTN 100 that the modified RV144 regimen is safe.

Larry Corey, HVTN principal investigator, said: “It is gratifying to see vaccines that were designed and manufactured specifically for South Africa meet and even exceed the criteria established to advance them into the large efficacy trial.”

“HVTN 702 is a pivotal study that could lead to a licensed HIV vaccine in South Africa – the first preventive HIV vaccine worldwide,” he said.

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