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AIDS: towards an HIV vaccine?

A full-scale test of this experimental vaccine is being launched in 2,600 women in southern Africa. Results are expected in 2021 or 2022. Source AFP

The scientific community around the world is working on an HIV vaccine. On Saturday 7 July, researchers reported encouraging progress in the fight against AIDS. An experimental HIV vaccine induced an immune response in humans and protected monkeys from infection.

The development of this potential vaccine, safe for men, is now sufficiently advanced to launch a test on 2,600 women in southern Africa. “These results represent a virologist step Dan Barouch, in a release of The Lancet magazine. He was joined by other experts, however, he warned that there was no guarantee that the following tests would be as positive. “We have to be careful,” he said.

Results in 2022
Two thirds of rhesus macaques were protected by the vaccine in laboratory tests. The results of the full-scale test, called Imbokodo (rock, in Zulu), are expected in 2021 or 2022. “This will be only the fifth HIV vaccine concept to be tested for effectiveness in the 35 or so years of the epidemic’s history,” Barouch said.

Another, called RV144, has been shown to protect men from HIV to some extent. In 2009, a study indicated that it had reduced the risk of infection by 31.2% among 16,000 volunteers in Thailand. The study published Saturday reports test results from 393 healthy, HIV-negative adults aged 18-50 in East Africa, South Africa, Thailand and the United States.

The importance of prevention
Some 37 million people are living with HIV or AIDS, according to the World Health Organization, and 1.8 million cases are contracted each year. The disease has killed some 35 million of the 80 million people it has infected since it was first diagnosed in the early 1980s.

Despite medical advances in the prevention and treatment of the disease (PrEP, antiretrovirals, triple therapy), researchers insist on measures to prevent infection: protection during sexual intercourse, use of new syringes, sterilization of medical equipment…

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