Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Trial of HIV vaccine ‘a milestone for SA’

Clinical testing of the first HIV vaccine developed in Africa will start in the United States next week, the South African Aids Vaccine Initiative (Saavi) said on Friday.

”This clinical trial represents a milestone for South Africa, as one of the few developing countries to have developed an HIV vaccine and progressed it into human clinical trials,” Medical Research Council president Anthony Mbewu said.

”It is progress in the search for an HIV vaccine that would provide the best chance to halt the global HIV epidemic; as well as a significant step in South Africa’s growing competence in complex vaccine development.”

The trial, called Saavi 102/HVTN 073, will test two vaccines developed by the University of Cape Town (UCT) and jointly funded by Saavi and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the US National Institutes of Health.

”The development of these vaccines is the culmination of eight years of research and development, which has involved scientists across South Africa and globally,” Saavi said in a statement.

”It is the first HIV test vaccine developed in Africa to make it into human clinical trials.”

The vaccine is for the HIV subtype C, the dominant strain in Southern Africa.

The trial starts in Boston in the United States next week, while testing in South Africa starts in January.

”The US arm of the trial will involve 12 participants while the South African arm, once approved, aims to recruit 36 participants from two sites, one in the Western Cape and another in Gauteng.

”The test vaccines — called Saavi MVA-C and Saavi DNA-C2 — have shown promising results in animal testing,” Saavi said.

”The DNA vaccine was wholly developed by South Africans while the MVA vaccine was designed by the team at UCT and constructed and manufactured in the US.”

The phase-one trial for an HIV vaccine tests for safety, tolerability and side-effects and also looks at the effect of the vaccine on the immune system.

If that phase, which in this case would be nine months long, is successful, the second and third phases with more volunteers would follow.

If all three phases are successful, the vaccine can be licensed for public use.

Ultimately, the success of a vaccine is tested by administering it to a population and monitoring its Aids statistics and checking if the incidence of the diseases drops.

”While there have been recent disappointments in vaccine research, we need to keep trying to find an HIV vaccine as this is our best hope of ultimately controlling this devastating epidemic,” said Glenda Gray, lead investigator on the clinical trials team.

The trial starts in the same week as World Aids Day on December 1.

In South Africa, the Congress of South African Trade Unions will hold a 30-minute work stoppage at midday on Monday to give workers the opportunity to discuss how Aids has affected their lives.

A report released on Friday showed that about 9 000 members of the South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union participated in the union’s voluntary counselling and testing programme between January and October this year. — Sapa

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Basic web lessons for South Africa: Government hacks point to...

Recent cyberattacks at the department of justice and the space agency highlight the extent of our naïveté

If the inflation-driving supply strain in the US lasts, it...

In South Africa, a strong trade surplus, buoyed by robust commodity prices, will cushion our economy against pressure arising from US policy

More top stories

ANC unlikely to replace Joburg mayor Matongo before 1 Nov

A party source said the ANC in Johannesburg would most likely call on one of the mayoral committee members to stand in as mayor until the local elections

Ramaphosa hits the right notes as he urges Cosatu to...

Cosatu meets to deliberate on its support for the governing party in the upcoming local government elections

DA insists IEC favoured the ANC after Constitutional Court dismisses...

The apex court’s dismissal of the Democratic Alliance’s application to declare reopening candidate registration unlawful came as no surprise

‘Factional’ ANC Veterans League chastised by Motlanthe

ANC Limpopo leaders called on the election committee to change the candidate lists in favour of Ramaphosa faction days before Motlanthe’s report on factions in the party

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…