South Africa: Africa's First HIV Vaccine Trial Fails

(File photo).
8 December 2023

Harare — An experimental HIV vaccine trial conducted in South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda was prematurely terminated due to preliminary findings indicating the vaccine would not be successful in preventing infection, Reuters reports.

The announcement is the most recent setback in the search for a vaccine to combat a virus that has to date, killed approximately 40 million people worldwide.

39 million more people, mostly in Africa, are HIV positive, according to the study's lead scientist. The vaccination study, which is a component of the larger PrEPVacc project, started in December 2020 with the enrollment of 1,512 healthy participants in the 18-40 age range, and it was scheduled to conclude in 2024.

Although there are medications that can lower an individual's chance of contracting HIV and therapies that help manage the virus and stop people from contracting Aids, the fatal immunological disorder brought on by untreated HIV, scientists believe that an HIV vaccine would be a crucial instrument in eradicating Aids as a hazard to public health.

Leading the study were researchers from Africa, backed by Imperial College London and other European institutions, investigating two variants of experimental HIV vaccines.

Additionally, a novel oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication was being tested to determine if it outperformed already available medications in lowering the risk of HIV infection. That  part of the trial is still in progress. The majority of participants were selected from groups at high risk of infection, such as fishermen, homosexual males, and sex workers.

The failed experiment, which was the only ongoing HIV vaccine effectiveness trial in the world, highlighted "how challenging it is to develop an effective HIV vaccine," according to a statement issued by the vaccination trial programme on Wednesday, December 6, 2023.

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