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HIV/AIDS vaccine trials underway

Trials of an HIV/AIDS vaccine began on human volunteers on Monday in Entebbe, Uganda.

The vaccines are currently the only ones being tested on humans that are tailored for the subtype of HIV most common in eastern Africa - subtype A. Most other vaccines focus on the B strain, which is found in the US and Europe.

Scientists do not yet know whether separate vaccines will be necessary for the different strains.

"The vaccines do not contain HIV, and cannot cause HIV infection," said the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), which is conducting the trials with the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).

The two vaccines - one a naked DNA formulation, and the other constructed from a weakened pox virus - were developed as part of an IAVI-sponsored partnership between research teams at the University of Oxford, in England, and the University of Nairobi, in Kenya. They are intended to boost the immune system to allow it to produce cells which can destroy others which have contracted the HIV virus.

The idea reportedly came from a group of commercial sex workers in Kenya who were found to have a degree of immunity to HIV/AIDS, despite being infected on a regular basis.

The first phase of the trials needs a total of 50 volunteers, only some of whom have come forward. "We will need many more men and women from all walks of life to come forward to help find a vaccine to prevent AIDS," said Seth Berkley, President of IAVI.

Trials of the vaccine combination are ongoing in Kenya and the UK. "If the vaccines continue to show promise in these early stage trials, they will progress to larger scale trials in additional sites in Uganda and other parts of East Africa," the IAVI statement said.

The Uganda National council for Science and Technology approved the trial in 2002. It was also reviewed and approved by the Science and Ethics Committee at UVRI and UNAIDS.

In 1999, Uganda was the site of the first AIDS vaccine trial in Africa.

"Uganda has long been at the forefront in responding to AIDS. It is only natural that we would be involved in the search for a vaccine to help end this epidemic," said Dr Kihumuro Apuuli, director general of the Uganda AIDS Commission.

[Volunteer information is available every Thursday from 5 pm until 7 pm in the Golf View Inn in Entebbe. Alternatively, view www.iavi.org/uganda]


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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