The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) had sponsored the trial and announced it was halting the South African study after a safety monitoring board and independent data discovered the vaccine did not adequately stop the spread of HIV, the virus responsible for AIDS.
NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said the surefire way in which to end the worldwide pandemic of AIDS is to develop an HIV vaccine. He said the hope was that this vaccine would do this, and it failed. However, he said, further research is being done to find a safe and effective vaccine for the AIDS-causing virus.
Fauci said he believes this will happen.
The Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise also expressed its disappointment in learning the vaccine study was no longer in effect. The enterprise is made up of stakeholders and funders who want to speed up the search for a vaccine for the virus.
International AIDS Society Immediate Past President Linda-Gail Bekker said the setback was significant, but the need to find a vaccine was necessary and the journey must continue. HIV infection rates, which are still rampant in Africa, are a testament to the need for more attention and urgency in finding a vaccine.
The trial – HVTN 702 – began with more than 5,400 HIV-negative volunteers in 2016. The volunteers ranged from ages 18 to 35 and included both men and women. The participants were randomly given a placebo or vaccine.
A study analysis showed there were no differences in HIV infections among the vaccine versus placebo groups. NIAID said there were 129 HIV infections among the participants given the vaccine with 123 infections of the placebo group. NIAID said the participants were told the trial was ending and researchers would be following them for some time.
The trial isn’t the only HIV investigation going on. The National Institutes of Health is participating in two late-stage, multinational HIV vaccine trials. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published research that the percentage of people using PrEP, a daily HIV prevention drug, increased by nearly 500 percent.
Alex Azar, U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, said in December the nation was implementing and putting into action a national program that would give HIV prevention drugs to at-risk uninsured adults for free.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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