UCT study seeks ways too prevent HIV

University of Cape Town community liaison officer, Zandile Ciko, talks about the importance of thie study.

In an attempt to find effective ways of preventing the spread of HIV/Aids, an information session on the Uhambo series of HIV vaccine clinical trial studies was conducted for Makhaza residents, on Saturday May 12.

Young and old gathered at the Desmond Tutu hall to learn more about the disease.

The study, HIV Vaccine Trial Network 702 (HVTN), is spearheaded by the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative (CIDRI). It was launched in Khayelitsha, in June last year, with the hope of recruiting 360 volunteers in the area.

The study would be carried out throughout the country, targeting sexually active people between the ages of 18 and 35. At least 15 sites have been set up across the country.

Researchers are hoping to reach about 5 400 participants nationwide over a period of five years, with the outcomes expected in 2021.This study would test the combination of two experimental vaccines.

UCT community liaison officer, Zandile Ciko, said the event was aimed at making the people of Khayelitsha aware of the study and to get them involved.

She said the university was working around the clock to find a vaccine.

Ms Ciko said participants would get five injections and would be required to visit the clinic 17 times over 24 to 26 months.

Professional medical officers would assess their health and well-being with regular HIV testing at the site.

Participants would also have to go through a screening process to evaluate their eligibility for the study.

Ms Ciko said about 200 participants took part in the study since it was launched. She said they held different workshops to educate participants about TB and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP).

She said some of the latest developments in the study was that they were now offering PREP pills and not only condoms as they used to.

She said one of the challenges facing the study was an unwillingness to get involved and a lack of understanding of the study but slowly, support for the programme has been increasing.

Grassroots care co-ordinator, Xhosakazi Ngonzi, said the initiative played a crucial role in stemming the spread of HIV. She said people still continued to have unprotected sex and the study could play an integral role in helping to prevent the spread of the disease.

To find out more about the study, or to get involved, contact Zandile Ciko at 072 878 2850