HIV/AIDS Newsroom: November 29, 2000
South African Village Prepares for First HIV Vaccine Trial
Nature Medicine (medicine.nature.com)
11/00; Vol. 6, No. 11, P. 1199; Connett, Harold
South Africa's Medical Research Council plans to begin HIV vaccine trials in February 2001, with phase III tests slated for completion by 2005. The trial will test a Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) virus vaccine, which uses an attenuated form of VEE with genes from subtype C isolates of South African seroconverters. Robert Olmstead, vice president at AlphaVax the vaccine producer, said that VEE targets lymphoid tissue and will be a good source. The South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative is funding development of the vaccine, together with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. Informing trial subjects regarding the vaccine has been a careful process, requiring the trust of South African tribal leaders. Hlabisa, which is located about four hours from Durban, is the site of the phase II and III trials. Health workers have been training educators to reach the Hlabisa area, using song and dance to communicate HIV prevention messages.
A new report from UNAIDS indicates that the number of people who contracted HIV in sub-Saharan Africa declined this year for the first time. Officials noted, however, that the finding must be interpreted with caution, because it is not known whether the drop is an actual turning point or just something temporary. "The least we can say is that the trend of an accelerating epidemic is now slowing down, and perhaps going down," said Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS. Worldwide, there were 5.3 million new HIV infections this year, compared to 5.6 million in 1999. The number of people living with HIV or AIDS increased from 33.6 million last year to 36.1 million this year, while the number of deaths from the disease also rose, from 2.6 million to 3 million. The report showed the Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union saw substantial increases in HIV cases, rising from 420,000 in 1999 to 700,000 now. Furthermore, UNAIDS' estimates indicate that more than 50 percent of Russia's 300,000 people with HIV contracted the disease this year. "What we had predicted and fear is now happening," said Piot, "and that is an explosion of HIV."
U.N. Requests $3 Billion From Western Governments to Combat AIDS Crisis in Africa
Philadelphia Inquirer (www.philly.com)
11/29/00; Collins, Huntly
Western governments need to give $3 billion a year for the next five years to fight the growing AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, the United Nations said Tuesday. Also, during a teleconference with AIDS activists in South Africa and the United States, the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders called on the five top drug firms to reduce the prices of their AIDS drugs in poor nations by 95 percent starting in January. In response, pharmaceutical industry spokesman Mark Grayson said they have already made a deal with Senegal for price cuts and similar agreements are planned for other countries in Africa. A new "report card" for the drug firms shows that American AIDS activists gave the companies failing grades on their vows to increase access to lifesaving drugs for poor people in Africa.
Pfizer is expected to announce on December 1, World AIDS Day, that it will donate $50 million worth of its antifungal drug Diflucan, which is used by many AIDS patients, to South Africa over two years. New statistics from the United Nations and the World Health Organization show there were 3.8 million new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa last year and that about 70 percent of all HIV-infected adults worldwide live in the region. Under the deal, Pfizer would provide Diflucan free of charge to individuals with cryptococcal meningitis and a kind of meningitis of the esophagus that results from thrush and affects between 20 percent and 40 percent of AIDS patients. South African and U.S. AIDS activists, as well as the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, have criticized the drug company's offer, calling it a public-relations move that will likely include several restrictions on the drug's distribution.
A new poll conducted by MTV shows that many young people are misinformed about HIV and AIDS. According to the survey, which questioned over 4,100 teenagers and young adults in 16 nations across the world, 60 percent of the 16- to 24-year-olds said they should be concerned about AIDS. However, only about one-quarter of the viewers said they know much about the disease and only about half of the sexually active respondents said they would never have unprotected sex.
Health officials in Mississippi are investigating an outbreak of syphilis in Greenville, where 15 cases of the sexually transmitted disease have been diagnosed in the past five months. Thus far, officials have learned that 21 people were in contact with the 15 confirmed cases. One official noted that the team investigating the situation is working to prevent a syphilis outbreak like the ones that hit the city from 1987 to 1995.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals reported Monday that a fast-track prodrug of the HIV protease inhibitor Agenerase, VX-175, is now in phase III tests. The product was formulated for a dosing regimen of three pills two times a day; however, the new tests -- in which all patients will receive Ziagen and Epivir twice daily -- will also explore once-a-day dosing. One of the phase III studies, which will last 48 weeks, will compare VX-175 given under the new dosing regimen to Viracept administered twice daily to 210 antiretroviral-naive patients. In the second study, more than 600 patients who have not previously taken antiretroviral drugs will be randomized to receive either three VX-175 tablets and Norvir once a day or 1,250 mg of Viracept twice a day for 48 weeks.
According to a new report, the actual number of HIV cases in Yugoslavia is about 6,000. That figure is nearly eight times higher than the number officially recorded, said Borisa Vukovic, head of the government expert group that deals with AIDS. Vukovic noted that only 860 cases have been registered, and more than 600 of those patients have died. Nearly 50 percent of the infections are among injection drug users.
New figures from Vietnam's Health Ministry forecast that unless aggressive measures are taken, more than 46,000 people will die from AIDS and another 200,000 will be diagnosed with HIV within five years. The statistics are in sharp contrast to the nearly 2,400 AIDS deaths and the 27,000 HIV infections the ministry previously reported. A report in Wednesday's official Vietnam News newspaper quoted the ministry as declaring the nation to be in the first stages of an epidemic of HIV and AIDS. UNAIDS estimates that 107,000 people in Vietnam are infected with HIV, nearly two-thirds of whom are injection drug users.
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.