Researchers are close to finding a vaccine for HIV/AIDs in a historic breakthrough that will play a big role in ending the deadly virus.
Researchers from Vaccine Interest Group (VIG) in Uganda say there is hope that by 2020 HIV vaccine could be in place following ongoing clinical trials in South Africa.
Ugandan experts are participating in this research that could change the world.
The revelation was made on Tuesday during the HIV Awareness Day organized by VIG in partnership with the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Quality Health Service Delivery and Makerere University Water Reed Project (MUWRP).
The awareness day was officially launched by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga at Parliament.
Dr. Francis Kiweewa, the Head of Research at MUWRP said that the significant HIV prevalence rate has pushed VIG to continue to look for a vaccine.
“Since 1998, we have had only 5 vaccine candidates reaching phrase 3 which leads to licensing. As we talk now we have 4 clinical trials in phrase 3; meaning that the candidates are beginning to show progress. We have the clinical trial in South Africa which is testing 5000 individuals and following them to ascertain if these candidates will not get HIV,” Kiweesa said, adding:
“We are following them up to 2020 and we are optimistic that these trials will lead us into HIV vaccine.”
He added that even if by 2020, there is no vaccine yet, the findings will still help them get more knowledge on how to improve in the next clinical trials.
“We believe that the vaccine is now not far from us. Once we get the vaccine, we shall start by testing the vaccine on animals, study its side effects before it’s tested on humans, dosing and side effects. We are very optimistic that sooner than later we are about to find an HIV vaccine,” Kiweesa added.
However, he said that one of the reasons why it has taken long to find an HIV vaccine is because the virus keeps mutating, making it difficult to find a global solution to it.
MUWRP’s Executive Director, Dr. Hannah Kibuuka said that whereas HIV prevalence rate and new infections in Uganda have declined over time, the pace may not meet the 2020 target as the virus remains the leading cause of death.
“We have had HIV for decades and still grapple with it. Globally, 36.7m people are living with HIV and we have 1.8m new infections in 2016 which means 5000 new infections every year to which 64% are from sub-Saharan Africa. In Uganda, HIV prevalence has declined to 6.5, but this is still significant because by 2016, only 67% of adults on ARTs (antiretroviral therapy), have access to treatment,” Dr. Kibuuka said.
Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu, the Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) called for adequate availability of ARVs to ensure regular dosage, saying that 50% of affected persons have Recombinant viruses which could be resistant to drugs.
In her speech, Speaker Kadaga commended VIG in their relentless search for the HIV vaccine, saying that the need for the vaccine is real and it would help stabilize peoples’ lives.
“We have been committed on advocacy on issues around HIV so we will be happy to walk with you all the way to ensure this service comes to the people because I know we are moving closer to the realization of this vaccine,” Kadaga said.