HIV vaccine trial failed, but quest continues

The American health authorities announced Monday the end of the clinical trial of an experimental vaccine against the AIDS virus in South Africa, because it did not demonstrate that it could limit the contaminations.

The clinical trial, dubbed HVTN 702, started in 2016 and aimed to test the only vaccine candidate in the country that had previously offered some protection against HIV, during a trial in Thailand in 2009.

The quest for a preventive vaccine continues

“An HIV vaccine is essential to overcoming the global pandemic, and we hoped this candidate would work,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, which funded the trial. “This is unfortunately not the case”.

The trial involved nearly 5,400 volunteers in 14 locations in South Africa, sexually active men and women between the ages of 18 and 35, who do not have HIV.

The teams randomly assigned them either the experimental vaccine or placebo injections, at the rate of six doses over an 18-month period.

To protect participants, they were also offered preventive treatments, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a tablet taken daily is extremely effective in protecting against HIV.

The researchers analyzed data from the two groups after 18 months of treatment, the time required for the experimental vaccine to produce an immune response.

“An important setback”

129 HIV-related infections were detected in participants who received the vaccine and 123 infections appeared in those who received placebo, leading to the discontinuation of the trial.

“Although this is a major setback for the industry, we must continue the quest for a preventive vaccine,” said Linda-Gail Bekker, head of clinical trial protocol and former president of the International AIDS Society (AIS). .

There are several other trials underway to try to find a vaccine. One takes place in South Saharan Africa and South Africa, another is carried out on several sites in North America, South America and Europe.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world. According to the UNAIDS program, more than 20% of the adult population aged 15 to 49 in South Africa is HIV positive, and 240,000 people were infected with the virus in 2018.

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