UCT conducting HIV vaccine trial

Young people attended the launch of the Uhambo initiative in their droves.

The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative (CIDRI) has embarked on a mission to find a vaccine to prevent the spread of HIV.

They launched Uhambo, an HIV vaccine clinical trial in Khayelitsha, at the Thusong Centre on Friday June 16.

The study will be carried out throughout the country, specifically targeting sexually active people between the ages of 18 and 35.

The study hopes to reach about 5 400 participants across the country. It also hopes to recruit 360 volunteers in Khayelitsha.

At least 15 sites have been set up across the country as part of the study.

The study would be conducted for over a period of five years and with outcomes expected in 2021.

This study is named the HIV Vaccine Trial Network 702 (HVTN) and it would test the combination of two experimental vaccines. The main goal of the study is to test whether the vaccine would be safe to give to people and would be effective in preventing HIV infection.

UCT community liaison officer, Zandile Ciko, said they officially started looking for volunteers in March and currently have around 50 young people, both men and women, who have joined the study.

She said they would use the Site B Day Hospital as their base in Khayelitsha.

Ms Ciko said the study involves five injections while the participants will be required to visit the clinic 17 times in 24 to 26 months.

They will be counselled while professional medical officers would assess their health and well-being with regular HIV testing done at the clinical research site.

However, she said the participants would have to go through a screening process which further evaluate their eligibility for the study.

Ms Ciko said the ultimate aim was to one day wake up and realise an effective HIV vaccine.

“The study is supported by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and South Africa’s Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and funded by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We as the community team, three community educators/ recruiters, led by myself, are responsible not only for the recruitment of the youth for our study but educating the community on the study and different preventative methods available and those that are still under research such as Prep (Pre-exposure prophylaxis),” she said.

Zandile Mentjies, a representative of NGO Born Again Enrichment Centre, urged young people to live a healthy lifestyle.