Researchers Launch African AIDS Vaccine Program
A coalition of medical researchers assembled yesterday in South Africa to launch the African AIDS Vaccine Program, an initiative designed to stimulate research into a vaccine targeted at the HIV strains most commonly found on the continent, Reuters reports. More than 28 million Africans have HIV, but less than 2% of HIV/AIDS research funding worldwide is dedicated to research on African-specific strains; the majority of funding goes toward work on strains common in the United States and Europe. "It is unacceptable that the continent that is home to more than two-thirds of all people living with HIV/AIDS receives so little attention," Malegapuru Makgoba, head of the South African Medical Research Council, said. The AAVP, which is being coordinated by the World Health Organization, is seeking $233 million over a seven-year period, the span researchers have allotted themselves for developing a "cheap, effective and safe" vaccine for Africa (Boyle, Reuters, 6/3). Pontiano Kaleebu, a lead researcher with the program, said that to date two African-specific studies -- one in Uganda and one in Kenya -- have been completed (Associated Press, 6/3). He said that the lack of research was "partly a consequence of neglect and partly of slow and complex decision-making," as some African nations require the consensus of many officials at every level of government before a clinical trial can begin. He added that the researchers need "political pressure" to help convince more pharmaceutical companies to invest in African research (Reuters, 6/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.