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New HIV Vaccine Trials Raise Hopes

October 29, 2008

Within a few months, two experimental HIV/AIDS vaccines from South Africa will be administered to a small number of volunteers in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Boston. This will mark the first time HIV vaccine candidates produced in the developing world are trialed in a developed nation.

At the AIDS Vaccine 2008 Conference held earlier this month in Cape Town, researchers stressed going back to basic research following recent setbacks. Last year, uncircumcised male volunteers given a Merck vaccine candidate using adenovirus showed increased susceptibility to HIV. Researchers at the conference said caution should be exercised to not repeat those results.

"It would be unethical to embark on future trials if the same risk factors as those in the [previous] trials were present," said Professor Ruth Macklin of the New York-based Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "The question is, for example, if there should be exclusion criteria for uncircumcised men."

"We need to consider benefit to individuals and benefit to science and society," said Professor Keymanthri Moodley of the Bioethics Unit at the University of Stellenbosch. "In the case of AIDS vaccine trials, the risks are significant but the benefits, if an effective vaccine is developed, will be enormous."

The candidate vaccines will be tested on 36 people in Johannesburg and Cape Town and 12 people in Boston, said Dr. Glenda Gray of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI).

The experimental SAAVI DNA vaccine was developed by researchers at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine. The SAAVI MVA product was conceptualized by UCT scientists and produced with assistance from the US National Institutes of Health and the biotech firm Therion.

"The participants will be men and women from low-risk groups, including some who are celibate and some who are in monogamous relationships with known HIV-negative partners," Gray said.

Back to other news for October 2008

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
10.20.2008; Stephanie Nieuwoudt

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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.
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