Wednesday, December 20, 2000
AIDS vaccine trials set to start in Kenya
NAIROBI A Kenyan AIDS vaccine will be tested early in the new year. Those eligible for the trial will be people considered to be at high risk of contracting HIV. The announcement was made at the opening of new laboratories at the University of Nairobi.
Scientists hoped the trials would get underway as soon as the labs were open, but Kenyan Public Health Minister Sam Ongeri said government approvals were still needed.
The vaccine was developed from research on a group of prostitutes working in a Nairobi slum. The sex workers in the Majengo area never contracted HIV, despite being repeatedly exposed to infection.
The vaccine is the first prototype designed specifically to fight the strain of HIV most common in Africa. Strain "A" is prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa where 25 million people have been infected with HIV.
The vaccine has been tested on volunteers in Britain for the past few months. It is supposed to stimulate the immune response of the body's T-cells to fight the infection. And according to Dr. Andrew McMichael, the scientist leading the British trials, the vaccine has a very good chance of doing just that.
He says their research also suggests white blood cells activated by the vaccine are capable of destroying virus-infected cells.
The volunteers taking part in the British trials are all healthy and free of HIV. They are also considered to be at low risk of contracting the virus.
The trials in Kenya, where around 500 people are infected each day, will target those at high risk of HIV infection.
Experts say a vaccine is the only way to fight the AIDS pandemic which has killed around 19 million people worldwide.
Created: December 21, 2000
Last modified: December 21, 2000
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