Zimbabwe will conduct its first ever HIV vaccine trial as part of efforts to curb the spread of HIV in February next year, officials have said. The HIV trial comes at a time when the global community is doubling efforts to curb the epidemic which had claimed the lives of about 800 000 people by 2013 in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s HIV prevalence stands at 15 percent, with 1, 4 million people living with the epidemic.

Dr Lynda Stranix-Chibanda, a paediatrician at the University of Zimbabwe College Of Health Sciences, yesterday told journalists in Bulawayo that the first trial would be carried out in Chitungwiza before spreading to other areas, including Bulawayo. "We are happy that after a long wait, we will start researching on an HIV vaccine. "A vaccine is a substance that teaches the immune system how to protect itself against a virus or bacteria," said Dr Stranix-Chibanda.

She said the initiative was being conducted on behalf of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) and it would be in conjunction with the UZ and University of California San Francisco (UZ-UCSF) Collaborative Research Programme.

"We will start with a sample size of 24 adults aged between 18 and 40 years from Chitungwiza, since it is nearer to the university. "We will then conduct two more researches with larger samples, a process which will take about three years before we can reach conclusions of the HIV vaccine efficacy," Dr Stranix-Chibanda said.

"Scientists have been looking for an Aids vaccine to prevent infection in HIV negative people over the last 30 years. HIV comes in many varieties and mutates rapidly. It primarily attacks every cell needed to mount an effective immune system." Dr Stranix- Sibanda said other related researches were being conducted at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo.

"This research is part of 11 other researches being carried out in SADC countries," she said.
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