Thursday, February 08, 2007

Testing an HIV vaccine

BBC News - African HIV vaccine trial launch
The first large-scale trial of an HIV vaccine is set to begin in South Africa, it has been announced.

Three thousand HIV negative men and women who are sexually active will be immunised in the four-year study.
I had no idea they had even developed a potential HIV vaccine, so I certainly had no idea it was already to the large-scale testing phase. I guess I'm behind the times.

I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of the first large-scale test being conducted in Africa. On the one hand it makes sense because HIV and AID are practically pandemic in Africa now. On the other hand, it could give the impression that American drug companies are using Africans as guinea pigs.

These statements made me feel better about the whole plan:
The test vaccine has already been through trials for safety and immune response in the Americas, Africa and Australia.

It does not contain live HIV, so cannot cause infection, but does contain copies of three HIV genes.
This just confused me a bit:
The study, jointly run by the international HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) and the South African Aids Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI) is also designed to show if the vaccine, which is based on the B strain of HIV, has the potential to protect against the C strain of the virus, which is the subtype prevalent in South Africa.
If the main strain in South Africa is not the one it is derived from, why do the first large-scale test there? That part seemed really odd to me.

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