500 Zimbabweans for new HIV drug trials

    Zimbabwe has become the first country in the Sub-Saharan Africa region to complete the successful enrolment of participants who are taking part in the ongoing large-scale HIV vaccine efficacy trials which are currently underway on four continents, covering 12 countries with about 12 669 study participants on board.

    Zimbabwe has 500 participants  in the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) 705 also known as “lmbokodo” and the Antibody Mediated Prevention (AMP) studies which seek to find a lasting solution to a safe and effective HIV vaccine.

    Speaking to The Herald at the weekend, HIV vaccine researcher at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health and Clinical Trials Research Centre, Dr Stranix Chibanda said the country finished its participants enrolment in June and they now await to monitor them as part of the research.

    “The 705 study has just finished enrolling participants and now we continue to follow them up monitoring their health and checking how the immune system will react to vaccines.

    “This will take a couple of years but I think in the next few years we will be able to roll out one of the vaccines for the benefit of our children today,” said Dr Chibanda.

    Dr Chibanda added that while the HIV vaccine trial remained an ongoing process, Zimbabwe had shown its preparedness to take the vaccines aboard once they pass the due process.

    “We are still doing the trials and not even in the next five years can we say we will be done. Maybe in 10 years, but I have noticed that the country is ready to take the vaccines once they are approved and licensed by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe.

    “However, the end of this enrolment phase facilitates the collection and analysis of trial specific data enabling researchers to answer research questions. It is in this vein that I want to applaud all those who volunteered to participate in these trials and they are commended for their selfless contribution towards this noble effort to move closer to a world without Aids,” she said.

    The AMP studies is now fully enrolled with 4 625 participants from communities in the USA, Brazil, Peru, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

    The AMP studies are the most advanced human clinical studies to test wether a broadly neutralising antibody (bNAb) called VRCO1 which is given intravenously can prevent HIV acquisition in people.

    The trials also seek to help to establish the concentrations of bNAb’s required for protection and to characterise any “breakthrough”  HIV infection to understand if it was sensitive or resistant to VRCO1.

    The studies also could also clarify what level of neutralisation a vaccine or antibody-based method of HIV prevention needs to achieve or maintain to promote sustained protection.

    HVTN705 or “Imbokodo”, meaning the rock in Zulu, was derived from a popular African proverb “Wathint’ abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo! meaning “You strike the women, you strike the rock!” in recognition of the strength women show in the face of challenges.

    This vaccine is being administered in women in Africa with 2 637 healthy HIV negative women aged 18-35 years drawn from Zimbabwe and the neighbouring countries helping in moving ahead with the trials.

    The vaccine regimen being tested in Imbokodo is based on “mosaic” immunogens — vaccine components designed to induce immune responses against a wide range of global HIV strains.


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