Scientists Launch Vaccine Study That Targets HIV Type in Africa

August 04, 2003

            Researchers around the world, including a team of physicians and nurses at the University of Rochester Medical Center, are launching the first worldwide test of a vaccine especially designed to prevent the strain of HIV infection prevalent in Africa.

            “Africa is a continent that has been devastated by HIV, and its people desperately need a vaccine to prevent further infection,” says Michael Keefer, associate professor of medicine and director of the HIV Vaccine Trials Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “A vaccine designed specifically for Sub-Saharan Africa is long overdue, and we’re extremely excited to have the opportunity to work alongside our African colleagues.

            “More than 90 percent of the approximately 40 million people infected with this disease live in Africa and other developing regions of the world. Volunteering for this study is one way that people here in Rochester can contribute to bringing an end to this epidemic, in Africa and here in this nation as well,” Keefer says.

            Twelve people in the Rochester area will be part of an overall group of 96 people worldwide who will receive the vaccine, which is made by AlphaVax, a North Carolina biotechnology company. Half of the 96 participants will be in South Africa – it’s the first time that an HIV vaccine study has been conducted in that nation. The other participants will come from the University of Rochester, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Columbia University in New York City, and Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

            The study is designed to assess the safety of the vaccine and to begin analysis of how the body reacts to it. Volunteers will be monitored for one year.

            The Rochester participants in this study will join nearly 700 other healthy HIV-negative local volunteers who have taken part in studies of HIV vaccines since the effort started 15 years ago. The total number of volunteers in Rochester is among the highest of any city in the world. Worldwide more than 12,000 men and women have taken part in various studies.

            This vaccine is one of eight that the Rochester team is currently evaluating. Altogether more than 100 volunteers locally are needed for these and other new studies that will begin within the next few months. Potential volunteers should be between the ages of 18 and 50 and cannot be infected with HIV. In addition, volunteers can come from any walk of life and do not need to be at high risk for HIV infection. Scientists stress that since the vaccines do not contain living or killed HIV, it is impossible for a volunteer to become infected from an HIV vaccine. All vaccines tested thus far have been proven very safe.

            For more information or to volunteer, call (585) 756-2DAY (756-2329) or check out www.shakenANDstirred.org.

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