The first injection took place on November 3 in Soweto. In this large township of South Africa there is a clinical trial of magnitude, as elsewhere in the country. Some 15 medical centers are experimenting with a preventive vaccine against HIV. The prospect obviously met a real success: more than 5,000 South Africans volunteered, announced the national chain eNCA. Results are expected by the end of 2020.
This clinical trial, registered under the code HVTN 702, is highly anticipated since 2009. At that time, a first vaccine was evaluated in Thailand. It resulted in a 30% reduction in the number of infections over three and a half years. Insufficient for a placing on the market, but sufficiently conclusive to continue the work.
A slightly different composition will be tested in South Africa. It targets HIV subtype C, which is predominantly circulating in the country. “This is an important milestone in HIV prevention around the world,” said eNCA Linda-Gail Bekker, Deputy Director of the Desmond-Tutu HIV Foundation. The organization participates actively in the work.
330 000 infections per year
Between the first and last injection, an interval of one year will be necessary. In total, the volunteers will receive 5 doses. There will be a three-year period during which participants will be closely monitored. This will evaluate the efficacy of the vaccine, which follows the “prime boost” strategy. It consists of administering a molecule that awakens HIV, then a second product that boosts the immune response to it. An approach that can prove valuable during contamination, while the virus has not infected a large number of host cells.
This proof can not be obtained without comparison. That’s why researchers will separate the patients into two groups. The first will receive the complete vaccine, the second a placebo. Investigating centers will not be informed of this distribution.
During follow-up, volunteers will be invited to respect the usual rules of prevention. But condom use is anything but a reflex in South Africa. Each year, 330,000 new infections are counted in the country. “A safe and effective HIV vaccine could help a lasting end to the HIV and AIDS pandemic,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) . It is particularly necessary in South Africa, where HIV is omnipresent more than anywhere else in the world. ”