HIV Vaccine Trial Ends In South Africa Amid Disappointing Results
Photo by Hush Naidoo
Yesterday the National Institutes of Health announced that it has ended the trial of HVTN 702, which involved more than 5,000 participants in South Africa. Essentially, the vaccine was found to be ineffective at stopping new HIV transmissions.
Like the flu virus, there are many different strains of HIV and HVTN 702 had been created to target the most common strain in South Africa, which has one of the highest HIV rates in the world.
Researchers hoped that upon the success of HVTN 702, further adaptations could then be made to cover other strains of HIV for other parts of the world.
The trial results mean it’s over…for now.
Participants in the vaccine study were randomly and blindly assigned so that some received the true vaccine while others got placebo injections.
The results found that out of 252 new cases of HIV infections among the participants:
- 123 HIV infections where found among those given the placebo
- 129 HIV infections where found among the vaccine recipients
While these results are extremely disappointing, many leaders within the NIH have commented that despite the setback, research will continue so that hopefully one day soon there will be an effective HIV vaccine.
In the meantime…
There are ways to prevent the spread of HIV and to manage the virus.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (AKA PrEP) is 99% effective at preventing HIV infection (even without using a condom) but, unlike a vaccine, it needs to be taken daily. Otherwise, it won’t be effective.
The increased effectiveness and availability of antiretroviral therapies (ART) means that people living with HIV can enjoy long, fulfilling lives. Adhering to ART treatments can even bring someone’s HIV viral load down to an undetectable level. Scientists have proven that those with an undetectable viral load pose zero risk of transmitting the HIV virus to someone else.
But there are counties in the US and countries around the world where PrEP and PEP aren’t as easily available. In those sexual health deserts, the only way to prevent the spread of HIV is to use condoms during sex. People in those places could really benefit from a vaccine – where longterm adherence and multiple doctor’s visits might not be feasible.
Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy at Terrence Higgins Trust was quoted in the BBC News as saying: “Through regular testing, condoms, PrEP and effective treatment which means people living with HIV can’t pass on the virus – we now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end the HIV epidemic. It’s vital we seize this.”
Stay sex positive everyone!