A promising new effort to procure a vaccine for HIV/AIDS is beginning in laboratories in London and two health centers in Africa. The objective of this trial, which is still in its initial phase, is to build upon research done in 2009 in Thailand that found that a combination of two vaccines was effective in reducing the HIV incidences.
The early trial is being run by the non-profit organization International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and will be conducted at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London and health centers in Kigali, Rwanda and Nairobi, Kenya. The Human Immunology laboratory at Chelsea and Westminster (run by the IAVI) has supported over 20 other vaccine trials to date.
The IAVI trial is recruiting 64 healthy volunteers who are not at risk of contracting the virus to receive a combination of the two vaccines. At this point, the trial aims is to ensure that the vaccine is first, safe and second, effective.
One of these vaccines is developed from a flu-like virus called Sendai. Both HIV and Sendai affect the mucosal tissues, found in the nose and genital area, in their early stages of infection. It is for this reason that the vaccine is administered through nasal drops.
Though the virus has no formidable vaccine today, the two vaccine prototypes found in the 2009 Thai trial proved to be 30% effective in preventing HIV infection. The new trial hopes to build upon these promising results.
The Terrence Higgins Trust, largely considered to be the UK’s leading HIV and AIDS charity, ensures that these clinical trials are a step toward better understanding the transmission of the virus. However, Clinical Director Jason Warriner, who has often been slightly hesitant to declare any developing vaccine a miracle cure, says that we have a long way to go. According to Warriner, “this research is in its very earliest states. Clinical trials take several years to complete and, even if the vaccine passes this first stage of tests, more research will be needed over the course of many years.
Nevertheless, IAVI’s executive director maintains an optimistic outlook on the future of HIV eradication, saying that, “it’s not if, but when we have an effective HIV vaccine. There is now strong scientific data to support that position.”
– Kathryn Cassibry