ZIMBABWE – A consortium of research organisations will embark on clinical trials of an HIV vaccine in Zimbabwe starting with 24 volunteers this coming November.
Announcing the landmark research, Dr Lynda Stranix-Chibanda, who is leading the research team, said the clinical trials will be conducted at Seke South Clinic and will involve 24 volunteers. If all the regulatory approvals are achieved, the trials will begin as soon as November, she said.
“The research protocol is currently under review by the regulatory authorities that govern medical research in Zimbabwe, such as the Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe, Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe, and National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe,” she said.
“This review will possibly be completed towards November 2015. In the meantime, the research team continues to prepare the clinic and an intense training course, interacting with regional colleagues who will also conduct the trial and learning best practice from the more experienced vaccine trial sites.
“The trial will be conducted in Zimbabwe at Seke South Clinic. We will recruit from the surrounding community, following information and education sessions for various groups in the area,” she explained.
The trials, to be run under the name HVTN 107, will be rolled out in phases over the next five to 10 years with the initial phase expected to last about three years.
“This is an early phase trial for very few people. Only 24 people will be recruited in Zimbabwe, although we may need to screen three times as many as that to get the 24 people who qualify to enter.”
Statistics show that about 15 percent of Zimbabwe’s population is living with HIV while 35 million people in the world have succumbed to Aids-related illnesses so far.
The vaccine which will be tested in Zimbabwe is an improvement of the Thai vaccine, which after being tested in about 16 000 people in Thailand, reduced the risk of contracting HIV by almost 31 percent.
In Thailand, the trial was hailed by researchers as successful since its results gave the first supporting evidence of any vaccine being effective in lowering the risk of contracting HIV.