Researchers have announced that a new clinical trial HVTN 702 to develop the world’s first vaccine against HIV has been launched in South Africa, across 15 sites.

The clinical trial is the largest and most advanced study to be conducted in the country, and scientists are optimistic that the world’s first preventive HIV vaccine could soon be a reality.

The scheduled Phase III trial aims to build on the success of two previous trials, HVTN 100 trial conducted in South Africa in 2015 and RV144 carried out in Thailand almost four years ago. The two previously studies have provided hope that an HIV vaccine could be successfully developed.

Interim results from the HVTN 100, presented at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa gave the green light for the upcoming Phase III efficacy trial. A sizeable percentage of HVTN 100 vaccine-recipients showed a range of immune responses, and the strength of those responses gave scientist the go ahead to further develop the vaccine.

Read: HIV vaccine trial to be conducted in South Africa

The study has 5,400 HIV-negative men and women at the 15 research sites across South Africa, and the trial will potentially span for three years. The sites include Khayelitsha CRS and Emavundleni (EMA) CRS in Cape Town, eThekwini CRS and Isipingo CRS in KwaZulu Natal, Soweto HVTN CRS in Johannesburg among other sites across the country.

An estimated 37 million people are now living with HIV around the world. Photo: DW
An estimated 37 million people are now living with HIV around the world. Photo: DW

“If deployed alongside our current armory of proven HIV prevention tools, a safe and effective vaccine could be the final nail in the coffin for HIV,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health and a co-funder of the trial.

Results of the study are expected in late 2020.

News of the launch of a clinical trial, which comes as the world prepares to commemorate World Aids Day (December 1) is welcome considering the high rate of new HIV infections globally.

An estimated 37 million people are now living with HIV around the world and more than two-thirds (70 percent) of all people living with HIV, 25.8 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014, an estimated 1.4 million people in the region became newly infected.