5,400 jabs in search of an HIV vaccine - Times LIVE
Sat May 27 23:05:00 SAST 2017

5,400 jabs in search of an HIV vaccine

Nkosiyazi Mncube, 23, is the first participant in the HIV vaccine trials at the KwaZulu-Natal MRC clinic, but neither he nor Dr Anamika Premrajh know whether he's getting the medication or a placebo.

For years Soshanguve resident Mmapule Raborife's aunt was hidden away. No one spoke of her except to say that she was "bewitched".

It was only after she died that Raborife learned that she had Aids.

This inspired Raborife to get involved in an HIV vaccine trial launched yesterday.

Raborife is a member of the community advisory board at the Setshaba Community Clinic in Soshanguve.

The clinic is one of 15 across the country at which volunteers are being recruited to take part in the trial.

It will involve injecting 5,400 men and women with either the trial vaccine or a placebo, in this instance sterilised water.

The advisory board will oversee the trial and speak to participants to make sure that no one is dissatisfied or confused.

About 1,000 people are infected with HIV every day in South Africa, despite efforts to prevent its spread by urging the use of condoms and male circumcision, and by treating those infected quickly to make them uninfectious.

Glenda Gray, head of the vaccine trial in South Africa, said an HIV vaccine that was only partially effective would "dramatically alter the course of the epidemic".

The local trial is a follow-up to one in Thailand that showed that the vaccine reduced the rate of HIV infection by more than 30% in three years.

"HIV has taken a devastating toll in South Africa but we now begin a scientific exploration that holds great promise for our country," said Gray, CEO of the Medical Research Council.

The Thai vaccine has been boosted to make it stronger and its effects last longer.

If it is found to be 50% effective it will be likely licensed for use.

The vaccine will be administered five times during the course of the study.

Anamika Premrajh, principal investigator at the Verulam testing site, said: "There are no major safety concerns but there are minor side effects, such as nausea, fever and rashes.

"The safety of the participants will be closely monitored and they will also be offered established methods for preventing HIV infection.

"The vaccines do not contain HI virus and, therefore, do not pose any danger of HIV infection to study participants," Premrajh said.

Volunteers Ningi Mbutho, 29, and Nkosiyazi Mncube, 23, were injected with the trial vaccine in Verulam yesterday.

Mncube said: "I am doing it so that I can help the scientists and doctors find a cure.

"I am excited because I am maybe helping to secure the future of other young South Africans."


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