News 24, SA teens to test Aids vaccine , 12 August 2004

Johannesburg - South Africa hopes to begin testing a preventative Aids vaccine on teenagers under a new program announced Thursday that targets the group most at risk.

"At the moment we think our best shot is at preventative treatment," spokesperson for the South African Aids Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI) Michelle Galloway said.

"There's an international move toward teenagers.

"Scientists are saying that at some point we are going to have to involve teenagers in trials because they are the most at risk group," she told AFP.

SAAVI, established by the health ministry to co-ordinate research and testing of Aids vaccines, is currently testing two preventative Aids vaccine candidates in South Africa.

The trials are expected to take up to 10 years.

"We don't want to end up with a vaccine that won't work in teenagers because it is believed that their high level of hormonal changes may impact on the effectiveness of a vaccine," said Galloway.

Partnership with Nelson Mandela Foundation

SAAVI and the Nelson Mandela Foundation announced on Thursday that they would work together on the project.

"Both organisations have youth as one of their key constituencies," SAAVI director Tim Tucker said in a statement.

"As a result, the focus of this partnership between SAAVI and the Nelson Mandela Foundation will be... the responsible involvement of adolescents in HIV vaccine trials."

The Nelson Mandela Foundation is involved in several Aids awareness and research campaigns.

"Our partnership with SAAVI will enable us to harness the best minds in the vaccine area, in the development of a meaningful prevention based response to the epidemic," said John Samuel, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Galloway said the partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation involved sharing of resources, skills and information, and "further down the line probably some direct funding".

But she added that the logistics surrounding the involvement of teenagers such as consent from their parents had to be looked at before the trials could start.

In many cases, the children do not want their parents to know that they are sexually active, which complicates matters.

South Africa has one of the highest Aids rates in the world with UNAids estimating 5.3 million adults, or one in nine in the population, to be infected.

Edited by Elmarie Jack




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