Hopes have been extinguished that an experimental vaccine will protect people from HIV, the virus that causes Aids.
The National Institutes of Health, of more than 5,000 people in South Africa, stopped its HVTN 702 trial as it found the jab did not prevent HIV.
Experts expressed “deep disappointment” but stressed that the search would continue for a preventive HIV vaccine.
Such vaccines do not contain HIV, and therefore do not pose a risk of giving an individual HIV.
What was the vaccine?
The jab was a new version of the first HIV-vaccine candidate shown to provide some virus protection-in clinical trial RV144, in Thailand.
There are many different HIV strains and the vaccine had been tailored to the most prevalent subtype in South Africa, which has one of the world’s highest HIV rates.
There were great hopes the vaccine would work, and then it could be adapted to cover other HIV strains that circulate in other parts of the world.
What happened in the trial?
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH said: “An HIV vaccine is necessary to put an end to the global pandemic and we hoped this vaccine candidate will work. Regrettably, it doesn’t work.” “Research continues on other solutions to a safe and effective HIV vaccine that I do believe can be accomplished.” Linda-Gail Bekker of the International Aids Society said: “While this is a major setback for the industry, it’s an important setback to be achieved.
Linda-Gail Bekker of the International Aids Society said: “While this is a major setback for the industry, the search for a preventive vaccine needs to continue.”
How can we stop HIV?
A drug treatment called pre-exposure prophylaxis (Prep) is effective in preventing HIV infection but should be taken periodically, even daily, unlike a vaccine.
For countries where such therapies may not be available, use of condoms during sexual intercourse-or abstinence-remains the only successful preventative.
Recent breakthroughs in anti-retroviral therapies have improved the lifespan of HIV sufferers.
Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy at Terrence Higgins Trust said: “We now have an once-in-a-generation opportunity to end the HIV epidemic through regular testing, condoms, Preparation and effective treatment that means people living with HIV can not pass on the virus.