As the curtain fell Friday on the 2016 International AIDS Conference in South Africa, organizers challenged delegates to go back to their countries and start the hard work toward an ambitious goal: ending the pandemic by 2030.
After five days of discussions on key topics like stopping new HIV infections, getting treatment for the infected and finding a vaccine to end AIDS for good, it was time for delegates to return home Friday.
Despite the tremendous strides made since the first International AIDS Conference 21 years ago, the epidemic has killed tens of millions, infected tens of millions and continues to infect millions more.
More than 1 million AIDS-related deaths were recorded last year. Seventeen million infected people are receiving anti-retroviral drugs, while 20 million more are going untreated.
This led organizers of the conference to challenge all nations of the world and their citizens to stand up and turn the tide.
The United Nations AIDS agency emphasized that implementation of all issues agreed upon at the conference was key in ensuring AIDS is eliminated. The incoming president of the International AIDS Society, Linda-Gail Bekker, made a passionate plea to donors.
The message to all delegates was clear: The conference might be over, but the hard work has just begun. VOA reported.
In 2015, 2.1 million new infections were reported — two-thirds of which occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.
A small trial, known as HVTN100, took place in South Africa in 2015 to test the safety and strength of immunity the vaccine could provide, ahead of any larger-scale testing in affected populations.
Two-hundred and fifty-two healthy volunteers were enrolled to receive either the vaccine, known as ALVAC-HIV/gp120, or a placebo to compare the extent of immune response generated. The results were presented Tuesday at the 21st International AIDS Conference
in Durban, South Africa.
“This was precautionary to see if the vaccine looks promising,” said Linda Gail Bekker, deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, and president-elect of the International AIDS Society
, who is leading the vaccine trials.
The vaccine was improved for use in the higher-risk populations of sub-Saharan Africa, where a different sub type of the virus also exists.
We’ve inserted specific inserts from viruses that have come off the subcontinent,” said Gail Bekker. A new component was also introduced to stimulate stronger immunity, known as an adjuvant.
Four criteria were set as measures of its likely effectiveness, including the level of T-cell and antibody response to fight the virus if it were to infect.
A larger-scale trial of the vaccine will now begin in 5,400 people across four sites in South Africa in November 2016 and run for three years. A fifth dose of the vaccine will also be given in hope of longer-lasting protection.
The Thai study showed 60% protection against HIV after one year, but this fell to 31% by the end of the trial. The team hopes the new regimen will bring protection levels back up.
“We want to get it up to 60% and keep it there,” Fauci said. “That’s the reason for the boost and the reason for the adjuvant,” he said.
Experts have long been awaiting a vaccine showing enough efficacy to dent the numbers of people newly infected with HIV each year, which fell by 0.7% between 2005 and 2015, according to a study published and presented at the conference.