Trials of a new HIV vaccine have begun in South Africa, raising hopes that the global epidemic may finally be at an end.
Despite drug treatments extending the lives of those diagnosed with AIDS, previous attempts to inoculate people from the lethal disease have all failed and the infection rate has continued to rise, The Guardian reports.
Now though, researchers believe that a modified version of a vaccine called RV144 could potentially help bring an end to the epidemic.
RV144 was originally tested on more than 16,400 Thai men and women who were randomly assigned to receive either the vaccine or a placebo injection. After three-years, 125 people had become infected with the disease, 51 who had received the vaccine and 74 who had not.
Researchers believe they’ll have more success in South Africa, because of modifications made to the drug called HVTN 702. The trial has just recruited the first of 5,400 men and women aged 18-35 who will take part in the study.
Chief executive of the South African Medical Research Council, Dr Glenda Gray, who’s been involved in the study, believes the vaccine could change the course of South African history.
HIV has taken a devastating toll in South Africa, but now we begin a scientific exploration that could hold great promise for our country.
If an HIV vaccine were found to work in South Africa, it could dramatically alter the course of the pandemic.
Those taking part will receive booster shots of the vaccine to enhance the immune system’s response and volunteers will get five shots of the vaccine followed by three boosters.
Scientists working on the project hope to boost the success of the Thai trial, which was 31 per cent, to around 50 or 60 per cent which would be a major step forward.
If the trial manages to have around a 50 per cent success rate then the vaccine may be able to obtain a license from regulators and begin wide spread distribution.