HIV

Scientists say a new vaccine against HIV, to be tested in a trial to be launched in South Africa this week, could be "the final nail in the coffin" for the disease if it is successful.

Anthony Fauci, director of the US government's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said Sunday, in a statement released ahead of the trial, said the new vaccine is promising.

The study, called HVTN 702, is to begin Wednesday and aims to enroll 5,400 sexually active men and women aged between 18 and 35 at 15 sites across South Africa.

It will be the largest and most advanced HIV vaccine clinical trial to take place in South Africa, where more than 1,000 people a day are infected with HIV.

HVTN 702 aims to enroll 5,400 men and women, making it the largest and most advanced HIV vaccine clinical trial to take place in South Africa, where more than 1,000 people become infected with HIV every day.

"If deployed alongside our current armory of proven HIV prevention tools, a safe and effective vaccine could be the final nail in the coffin for HIV," said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health and a co-funder of the trial.

"Even a moderately effective vaccine would significantly decrease the burden of HIV disease over time in countries and populations with high rates of HIV infection, such as South Africa."

The experimental vaccine regimen being tested in HVTN 702 is based on the one investigated in the RV144 clinical trial in Thailand led by the US Military HIV Research Program and the Thai Ministry of Health.

The Thai trial delivered landmark results in 2009 when it found for the first time that a vaccine could prevent HIV infection, albeit modestly.

The new regimen aims to provide greater and more sustained protection than the RV144 regimen and has been adapted to the HIV subtype that predominates in southern Africa, a region that includes the country of South Africa.

HVTN 702 begins just months after interim results were reported for HVTN 100, its predecessor clinical trial, which found that the new vaccine regimen was safe for the 252 study participants and induced comparable immune responses to those reported in RV144.

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