HEALTH AND WELFARE

New HIV vaccine could soon be clinically tested in SA

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A new HIV vaccine is soon to be clinically tested that could potentially prevent the disease in South Africa but needs to be approved by the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC). The study would enrol a minimum of 1668 eligible adults aged 18 to 40 through collaborating clinical research centres in four countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda. “All the countries taking part in PrEPVacc are committed to reducing and ultimately stopping all new HIV infections, and a successful HIV vaccine is crucial for prevention,” said Glenda Gray, SAMRC President and Chief Executive Professor

The research team would look for HIV-negative participants from the public to report behaviours that put them at increased risk of HIV. The study would include people to work around main highways, commercial sex workers, fisherfolk and men who have sex with men. The selected participants can’t be contributing to other biomedical research studies.

Gray highlights that “PrEPVacc is a very efficient way of doing an HIV-prevention trial, it’s actually testing two different ways of preventing HIV at the same time”. She says that there are are two different vaccine combinations being trialled and a preventive oral medicine known as PrEP that participants will be offered. Additionally, the team is also testing whether a new oral form of the drug Descovy is equivalent or more effective than the existing standard one known as Truvada.

“If the application is successful this would be the third active HIV vaccination trial in our region,” said Gray. She noted that there were currently no licensed HIV vaccines, but there were two combination regimens already being tested in large-scale trials in Africa: HVTN 702 “Uhambo” and HVTN 705 “Imbokodo”.Desmond Tutu HIV Centre director Professor Linda-Gail Bekker said: “It’s not a race, we want to find a drug that works.”

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