The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes and is mightily encouraged by the announcement made on 4 March that South Africa will be hosting the first clinical trials to test the efficacy and safety of the first pre-vaccine genetically modified organism (GMO) that shows promising signs of preventing HIV. It is important to state that this is a pre-vaccine which we are hopeful will yield a vaccine that will go a long way to preventing HIV in the long run.
Based on the first trials conducted in Thailand, scientists have found a method of inserting some HIV coding genes into a virus (the canarypox virus) that show signs of stimulating an immune response to HIV. It is the culmination of billions of Rands of investment in one of the toughest scientific endeavours ever.
With approximately 6.8 million living with HIV/AIDS as of 2014, South Africa's epidemic remains the largest in the world, the vast majority of new infections resulting from sexual intercourse. This is why we are the best place to host the clinical trials, so ably led by the HIV Vaccine Clinical Trials Network.
A vaccine will bring monumental relief to our overwhelming disease burden but, we are getting closer but not quite there yet. We are very greatly indebted to the scientists for their persistence and perseverance and are hopeful that the clinical trials will bear fruit.
In the meanwhile, South Africa must never let up on the safe-sex campaign, public awareness and education to deal with a disease that is preventable. The moment of the first scientific breakthrough is not the moment to lower our guard and to lapse into complacency.
Shadow Minister of Health