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Sheffield 99 Tuesday, 14 September, 1999, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
HIV vaccine targets developing countries
by BBC Science's Helen Briggs

Trials are about to start of a new HIV vaccine designed to fight AIDS in developing countries.

Festival of Science
The vaccine has been developed to protect against the African strain of HIV. Scientists hope the vaccine might eventually provide a low-cost alternative to expensive HIV drugs.

Low-cost vaccine

More than 90% of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, live in developing countries. Drugs are available to treat, but not cure AIDS, but they're too expensive for most developing countries to afford.

needle 150
Drugs are usually too expensive for developing countries
Now scientists have come up with a new approach to fighting AIDS by developing a low-cost vaccine specifically designed to protect against the strain of HIV that's prevalent in Africa.

If it works, it could cost as little as a few dollars a jab. Professor Andrew McMichael, director of the Medical Research Council's Human Immunology Unit in Oxford, England, says initial tests of the vaccine in animals have proved promising.

Speaking at the annual British Science Festival in Sheffield, he said trials of the vaccine are about to start in healthy volunteers. These will take place initially in Britain but, if the vaccine proves safe, trials will be carried out in Kenya in collaboration with the University of Nairobi.

Aids Special Report
Professor McMichael says there are some clues that this new approach could work. The vaccine is designed to mimic the natural immunity to HIV recently found in a small group of prostitutes in Nairobi. And a similar vaccine against the monkey equivalent of HIV offered good protection against the virus.

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, which is funding the research, is working with the World Bank and international pharmaceutical companies to ensure that, if it works, the vaccine will be available at a price that developing countries can afford.

See also:

07 Jun 99 | Science/Nature
13 Aug 99 | Health
04 Nov 99 | Aids
01 Sep 99 | Health
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