A landmark HIV vaccine trial was launched in South Africa on the eve of World AIDS Day on December 1. Scientists hope it will help eradicate the disease.
Science has been trying in vain for 30 years to find a vaccine for HIV. But for the first time since the virus was identified in 1983, there is hope that a newly developed experimental vaccine might bring the world a step closer to a breakthrough in the battle against AIDS. The clinical trials were launched on November 30 in South Africa.
The new study, known as HVTN 702, will involve more than 5,400 sexually active men and women aged 18-35 in South Africa over the course of four years. It is one of the biggest clinical AIDS trials ever undertaken and the first new human HIV vaccine study in about a decade.
Although antiretroviral medicaments have stopped AIDS from being a death sentence, experts believe that the epidemic can only be stopped with a vaccine.
The ‘Holy Grail‘ of vaccines
Professor Linda-Gail Bekker from the University of Cape Town is the new study’s co-chair. She said discovering a vaccine against HIV is very difficult. “Finding a vaccine that really works is like looking for the Holy Grail.” She agrees that it is not possible to eradicate the disease completely before there is a vaccine that keeps people from getting infected. “But if we develop that vaccine, it will be a revolution in the war on the epidemic,” Bekker said.