As millions of people around the world continue to die of AIDS, scientists from the United States are preparing to run a large-scale clinical trial of a new HIV vaccine in South Africa, according to NBC News.
The vaccine is an improvement of a previous one (RV144), and scientists are optimistic that it will yield better results in this trial, which is scheduled to begin in November.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci explains, “For the first time in seven years, the scientific community is embarking on a large-scale clinical trial of [the] HIV vaccine, the product of years of study and experimentation.”
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Dr. Fauci hopes the new HIV vaccine will be safe and effective in order to bring an end to the AIDS pandemic, which has devastated the world, particularly the developing world.
He further says that the decision to carry out the new trial in South Africa was based on the fact that the country has the highest HIV prevalence in the world.
Glimmer of Hope
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) epidemic is widely believed to have originated from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the early 1970s. The virus is known to cause a condition referred to as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), whose cure is yet to be found.
Over the years, scientists have managed to create a cocktail of antiretroviral drugs that helps to keep the disease under control for a significant number of years. The same drugs are used to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, which medical practitioners refer to as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
If the new HIV vaccine proves to be effective, experts say it will help fight the deadly virus, which they claim kills at least 1.2 million people yearly across the world.
According to Dr. Fauci, new HIV infections have fallen by 35 percent globally since 2000 and he hopes the discovery of a safe and effective vaccine will be a major achievement toward eradicating the AIDS epidemic.
Significant Progress Made
Although AIDS is still incurable, major advances have been made over the years toward controlling the epidemic.
In 2006, scientists discovered that male circumcision reduced HIV transmission from female to male by 60 percent. This led the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS to launch campaigns to encourage male circumcision where HIV infections are prevalent.
In 2011, HPTN052 trials revealed that early initiation of antiretroviral treatment reduced the risk of HIV transmission by 96 percent among serodiscordant couples.
In July 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved PrEP treatment for HIV-negative people to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.
Scientists hope to have found the real cure for HIV by the year 2030.