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CityPress - - News - ZINHLE MAPUMULO zinhle.mapumulo@city­press.co.za

n HIV vac­cine that has the po­ten­tial to end the Aids epi­demic in South Africa is cur­rently be­ing tested in six sites coun­try­wide.

If all goes well in the fol­lowup tri­als set to begin late next year, the vac­cine could be avail­able for gen­eral use by 2019.

More than 250 peo­ple have been en­rolled in the trial (of HVTN 100) that be­gan in Jan­uary and is ex­pected to be com­pleted by the end of this year. It is be­ing con­ducted by the HIV Vac­cine Trial Net­work and the Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil.

Par­tic­i­pants have been given a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the so-called Thai vac­cine to test it for safety and as­cer­tain whether the medic­i­nal reg­i­men in­duces the pre­dicted im­mune sys­tem re­sponse.

The Thai – or RV144 – vac­cine made head­lines world­wide in 2009 when there was ev­i­dence that it could of­fer pro­tec­tion against HIV in­fec­tion by up to 31% when tested in Thai­land. The find­ings were hailed as a break­through in the decades-long strug­gle to de­velop an ef­fec­tive vac­cine.

The vac­cine had to be tested as part of con­fir­ma­tory tri­als in var­i­ous parts of the world.

South Africa tested it in 2013 to see whether South Africans would have the same im­mune re­sponse to RV144 as that wit­nessed in Thai­land. Tri­als were con­ducted at three sites (Soweto, Klerks­dorp and Cape Town).

The rea­son for testing the im­mune re­sponse in­stead of its ef­fec­tive­ness in HIV-in­fec­tion pre­ven­tion is phys­i­o­log­i­cal as­pects such as gen­der, age, eth­nic­ity and body mass in­dex of­ten af­fect in­di­vid­ual re­sponses. Women, for in­stance, re­spond bet­ter to vac­cines than men, while heavy drinkers and obese peo­ple don’t re­spond as well.

The re­sults of the 2013 South African trial, HVTN 097, were pleas­ing. The im­mune re­sponse of South Africans was as good, if not bet­ter, than that of the Thais, de­spite dif­fer­ences in eth­nic­ity and high lev­els of obe­sity in the 100 peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated in

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