HIV vaccine trial good news


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Kenyan scientists’ excellent work in the global fight against HIV goes a notch higher with the planned start of the trial of a new vaccine that stops the vaccine from infecting cells. This is the culmination of the pivotal work being done by a group of researchers led by Prof Omu Anzala, the director of the Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative, which is the site of the planned clinical trial.

This is encouraging news for the 1.4 million Kenyans living with the virus, the majority of whom are in the most productive age group, ranging from teenage to middle age. It is a welcome development in the search for an HIV cure, which has remained elusive for many years, despite concerted international efforts to tackle this healthcare burden, especially for the poor countries.

Anti-retroviral drugs have played a key role in keeping many infected people alive, and fairly able to contribute to their families’ welfare and to national economic prosperity by doing some productive work. Thanks to access to ARVs, those infected do not remain bedridden and highly dependent on their families. The HIV scourge is one of the major causes of illness in Kenya, putting huge demands on the public healthcare system that caters for a majority of the population.

However, some commendable progress has been made in the campaign against HIV/Aids due to the scaling-up of treatment and care. According to available National Aids Control Council statistics, nearly 28,000 people died of Aids-related causes in 2017, down from 53,900, a 48 per cent decline that confirms gains in the fight against HIV.

The Kenyan scientists involved in this latest onslaught on HIV are upbeat that recruitment for the vaccine trial should begin in the next three weeks. The vaccine being tested is meant to stop the virus from attaching itself to body cells.

Incidentally, this new Kenyan initiative coincides with yet another laudable effort – the expected rollout of a malaria vaccine for children that is expected to help tame this major killer. The researchers behind the new HIV vaccine deserve all the support from the government and its international partners to realise tangible results.