HIV vaccine trial failed, but scientists won't give up


For 40 years, scientists have been searching for an effective HIV vaccine in vain. [Courtesy]

Scientists hope to find an effective HIV vaccine after a recent trial on women in five sub-Saharan African countries failed to yield expected results.

The large-scale HIV vaccine proof-of-concept trial by Johnson & Johnson and titled Imbokodo meaning “you strike a woman you strike a rock” was conducted among 2,637 young women aged between 18 and 35 from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique revealed that the vaccine did not provide sufficient protection, with a paltry 25.2 per cent efficacy attained.

But the AVAC (Aids Vaccine Advocacy Coalition) did not consider the trial a failure with AVAC Executive Director Mitchell Warren terming the study important for science research as it directs the next step from the quick results and clues that can be used in the other ongoing vaccine trials.

Warren said HIV remains a global threat, and a safe, efficacious and accessible vaccine is still needed to end the scourge and two major trials are still in the pipeline in Africa and “we still hope for a positive outcome from the ongoing Mosaico and PrEPVacc studies,” said Mitchell.

Other recent breakthrough findings of studies known as HPTN 083 and HPTN 084 demonstrated the overwhelming efficacy of long-acting cabotegravir for preventing HIV acquisition in diverse populations and scientists hope this will lead to a faster decline in new infections from the HIV PrEP to less than 1000 new infections a day globally.

For 40 years, scientists have been searching for an effective HIV vaccine in vain, given the mutating nature of the virus and the various strains circulating in different regions globally.

But as things stand, people will make do considering “there are additional prevention options nearing availability, including the dapivirine vaginal ring and injectable cabotegravir, and several next-generation PrEP options are now entering advanced clinical trials,” added Mitchell.

Locally, there are about 110 new infections every day in Kenya. 

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