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Launch of vaccine trials 'a milestone'

February 08 2007

The launch of trials involving experiments for a vaccine against HIV in South Africa is a historic milestone in the fight against Aids.

This is according to the United States-based Aids Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (Avac).

The trial, known as Phambili ("forward") was launched by the SA Aids Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI) and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) of the US National Institutes of Health on Thursday.

"South Africa and the partner agencies in this study are demonstrating tremendous leadership," said Avac executive director Mitchell Warren.

The same vaccine candidate was currently being tested in another efficacy trial in North and South America, the Caribbean and Australia, he said.

"The data from this study, known as the Step Study, are not yet known.

"Phambili has been initiated before the conclusion of the Step Study to help speed the progress of gathering additional important data in sub-Saharan Africa."

Warren said the two trials would combine to shed light on whether this vaccine candidate had the potential to be a truly global vaccine that could eventually be used in both developed and developing countries.

He said that finding an effective Aids vaccine would not happen in one isolated sector or country, but from international collaboration between industry, government agencies, academia, and public-private partnerships.

"Phambili is an excellent example of putting public funds to good use to test a promising vaccine candidate," Warren said.

"While there have been a significant number of small and mid-size safety studies conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, Phambili is the first study that is designed to provide information on whether or not a vaccine protects against HIV infection or helps to blunt HIV disease.

"Neither the Step Study nor the Phambili trial has been designed as the final study of this vaccine candidate; if there are indications of efficacy, additional studies will be conducted to confirm this preliminary finding." - Sapa

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