6 March 2014

South Africa: Cabinet Welcomes Discovery of Potent HIV Antibodies

Cabinet has welcomed the announcement made by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) Consortium on the discovery of potent new HIV antibodies that could neutralise and kill multiple strains of HIV.

The research, which centres on how a KwaZulu-Natal woman's body responded to her HIV infection by making potent antibodies, was reported on Monday by the CAPRISA consortium of AIDS researchers jointly with scientists from the United States.

The study, published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature, describes how the research team found and identified these antibodies.

The cloned antibodies were then used in a series of experiments in the laboratory to elucidate the pathway followed by the woman's immune system to make these potent antibodies.

"The new insights gained from the KwaZulu-Natal woman into immune responses against HIV bring hope for future HIV prevention and treatment strategies," Cabinet spokesperson, Phumla Williams, said during a post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday.

However, Williams warned that this discovery was by no means a cure for HIV/AIDS and government therefore called on South Africans to continue to get tested for HIV, or stick to the antiretroviral treatment that is being offered to people, who test positive.

Responding to the question on whether the research has been communicated with the World Health Organisation (WHO), Acting Minister of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, as well as Administration, Edna Molewa, confirmed that work and consultations with the international community, especially with WHO, had been done.

"When an innovation like this one gets found, it gets subjected to scrutiny, questioning and also investigations by other scientists throughout the world.

"As we come to this point, it says those processes have already been worked on and the two Ministers of Science and Technology and Health have gone through those processes, that's the way we do things."

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