AIDS Vaccines at ICASA

On 20 September nearly 100 African scientists, trial volunteers, community advisory board members and AIDS NGO representatives from Africa participated in “Community Matters: Preparing for a Vaccine to Prevent AIDS,” an all-day workshop on the ethics and science of AIDS vaccine development co-sponsored by IAVI, AfriCASO, ICASO, KANCO and AAVP. The workshop was an official satellite of the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Africa (ICASA) held in Nairobi from 21-26 September. Kenyan Minister of Tourism and Information Raphael Tuju opened the satellite session and reminded the audience that “no epidemic of this magnitude has ever been rolled back without a vaccine.” He urged African AIDS organizations, governments and research groups to place AIDS vaccine research on their agendas alongside treatment, condoms and other prevention strategies.

The satellite meeting featured an in-depth discussion of new policies on treatment for HIV-negative vaccine trial volunteers who become infected with HIV through high-risk behavior during the study. (AIDS vaccines cannot cause HIV infection but some volunteers may become infected with HIV during the course of a study through their high-risk behavior.) Representatives from HIV Vaccine Trials Network, IAVI and the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative each outlined policies that include payment for several years of antiretroviral therapy for volunteers who become infected during AIDS vaccine trials. Other sessions explored ways to explain AIDS vaccine research to nonscientific audiences. This topic was also examined at an IAVI-sponsored skills building workshop on AIDS vaccine materials and education programs on 22 September.

IAVI President and CEO Seth Berkley facilitated an AIDS vaccine “roundtable” discussion at the main conference. Berkley highlighted the accomplishments of Uganda and Kenya which were the first African countries to approve and complete AIDS vaccine trials, saying “East Africa has shown remarkable commitment and leadership on AIDS vaccines. These efforts should be applauded and expanded so that we move as rapidly as possible towards an effective AIDS vaccine, which is so desperately needed in these countries and in the rest of the world.”