New HIV/AIDS Research Center in Cameroon to Help Develop Vaccine Against Vertical HIV Transmission

An HIV/AIDS research center in Yaounde, Cameroon, that opened last month plans to help develop a vaccine to prevent infants from contracting HIV through breast-feeding, reports. Breast-feeding might account for nearly half of all HIV infections in infants and children in areas where its use is widespread and prolonged, according to the World Health Organization. The Yaounde Center will conduct clinical trials of a vaccine being developed by Families First Africa, an international alliance led by UNESCO. The vaccine soon will be ready for safety tests, Vittorio Colizzi of the Tor Vergata University in Rome -- one of the center's partners -- said. The center also will train researchers from the region, seek to improve the capacity to diagnose HIV/AIDS in children and research HIV resistance to antiretroviral drugs used in Cameroon, Colizzi said. The Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland, the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention and Italy's Higher Health Institute also are partnering with the center, which is funded by UNESCO, the Italian Health Ministry, the European Union and the Cameroonian government (Buma Gana,, 3/1).

National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan
In related news, Cameroonian Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni last week launched the country's 2006-2010 HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan. The main priorities of the plan include ensuring universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment and care, fostering research and disease surveillance, promoting condom use, promoting prevention among at-risk groups such as youth and preventing vertical transmission of HIV. According to Maurice Fezeu, the permanent secretary of the National AIDS Control Committee, the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Cameroonian government and other national and international organizations will fund the plan. Several businesses and other stakeholders also are expected to contribute funding, Fezeu said (Yufeh, Cameroon Tribune/, 3/1).

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