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HIV/AIDS vaccines trials underway

Kenya's AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) will embark on the second part of their HIV/AIDS vaccine trials this week after preliminary results of the trials indicated signs of success last year, the project manager told PlusNews.

The project had been cleared to progress to the next phase and will involve 18 volunteers who are to be injected with the Modified Ankara vaccine, Dr Omu Anzala, project manager for the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI), told PlusNews. The Modified Ankara vaccine was initially used in the development of the smallpox vaccine.

In the first part of the study, 18 volunteers were also used - 12 were put on the vaccine while six were given a placebo. Six of those who received the vaccine were able to stimulate their immune systems to generate the required killer-T cells, which were found to protect sex workers from HIV infection even after being repeatedly exposed to the virus. Anzala said that no side effects were reported and the vaccine was well tolerated by the volunteers, proving that it was safe.

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), the Medical Research Council (MRC) of the UK, and KAVI have been working together for three years on the development and testing of the first AIDS vaccine made specifically for Africa. The first phase of the trials had already been completed in Britain and scientists were now working on moving to the second phase, said Anzala.

The vaccine trials were prompted by researchers' findings that sex workers who were repeatedly exposed to the HI virus were protected from infection by killer-T cells. These kill cells that have been infected by viruses such as HIV, before the infected cells can make larger amounts of the new virus.

Despite the progress made on these trials, it was still premature to even consider distributing the vaccine, said Anzala.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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