Kenya: Hope as new HIV vaccine goes on trial in South Africa

The march towards an HIV vaccine has moved a notch higher with the launch of a new vaccine test.

Dubbed the HVTN 702, the vaccination is being carried out among South African adults. The vaccine, which was preceded by the HVTN10, is the only vaccine that has shown some protection against the virus.

The trial will enroll 5,400 men and women, making it the largest and most advanced clinical trial for an HIV vaccine in South Africa.

"If deployed alongside our current armoury of proven HIV prevention tools, a safe and effective vaccine could be the final nail in the coffin for HIV. Even a moderately effective vaccine would significantly decrease the burden of HIV disease over time in countries and populations with high rates of HIV infection, such as South Africa," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said.

A press release on the same stated: "The experimental vaccine regimen being tested in HVTN 702 is based on the one investigated in the RV144 clinical trial in Thailand led by the US Military HIV Research Programme and the Thai Ministry of Health."

The Thai trial delivered landmark results in 2009 when it found for the first time that a vaccine could prevent HIV infection, albeit modestly.

Expectations are that this new vaccine will offer increased protection compared to the RV144.

"The people of South Africa are making history by conducting and participating in the first HIV vaccine efficacy study to build on the results of the Thai trial," said HVTN 702 Protocol Chair Glenda Gray.

The Thai trial was found to have a 31 per cent effectiveness and the new vaccine trial has modified the schedule and components of RV144 to widen magnitude and duration of vaccine-elicited protective immune responses.

The vaccine has two experimental vaccines; ALVAC-HIV and a two-component gp120 protein subunit vaccine. The vaccines do not contain HIV thus pose no danger to the participants in the study.