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S. Africa
launches biggest AIDS vaccine trial

S. Africa
launches biggest AIDS vaccine trial

South Africa, burdened with one of the world's major HIV/AIDS epidemics, unveiled plans on Thursday for its biggest AIDS vaccine trial.

The government-backed South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI) said the Phambili trial would be conducted on 3,000 HIV negative people age 18 to 35.

It will test whether the MRKAd5 HIV-1 vaccine developed by drug firm Merck & Co. prevents HIV infection or lowers HIV levels in those who become infected, SAAVI said in a statement.

It will also measure the effectiveness of the drug on the C strain of HIV prevalent in South Africa, whose population of 45 million has an HIV infection rate of around one in nine.

The vaccine was developed for the B strain and has undergone testing elsewhere in Africa, the Americas, and Australia.

"This test vaccine is one of the most promising currently available internationally," said Professor Anthony MBewu, president of the state-funded Medical Research Council.

"South Africa's conduct of this trial is a significant and exciting step forward in our search for a successful vaccine against HIV/AIDS." (Reuters)

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