HVTN vaccine trial opens in Botswana

The HIV Vaccine Trials Network is launching another arm of its HVTN 059 trial in Botswana and will begin enrolling volunteers next month to receive an experimental AIDS vaccine candidate. This trial is being run in cooperation with the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership and will involve 24 HIV-uninfected people in Gaborone. Other sites in the US and South Africa are already testing the vaccine candidate, known as AVX101.

Participants in the trial will receive three injections of the candidate, which is based on HIV subtype C. The candidate uses a delivery system or vector, derived from the Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis virus that was developed by the US-based company AlphaVax. Volunteers cannot become infected with HIV from this vaccine candidate.

Botswana has one of the most serious HIV epidemics in the world with an adult prevalence estimated at 37% in 2003. The country has a nationally-sponsored treatment program for HIV-infected individuals but the uptake has been slow and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only a fraction of people in need receive treatment.