AFRICA: Bill Gates backs kiddie HIV vaccine trials

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The global race for an effective HIV vaccine will include children for the first time, the United States-based Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation announced on Friday, HIV Vaccine Awareness Day.

Pamela Barnes, president of the Foundation, confirmed that the move to develop and test a candidate vaccine against HIV infection in children had been made possible by a grant of almost US$10 million from the computer software billionaire, Bill Gates.

"Vaccinating children has been the key to tackling the world's deadliest epidemics ... [but] children have been virtually absent from HIV vaccine research, despite having the most to gain from such a discovery," Barnes said in a statement.

An estimated 14 percent of all new infections worldwide occurred in babies who acquired the HI virus from their mothers.

Barnes hoped the grant, which would support up to eight pre-clinical research studies to address critical questions regarding the transmission of HIV via breastfeeding, would "bring us one step closer to the first generation of HIV-free and HIV-protected individuals".

If successful, the new vaccine, administered shortly after birth, should have the ability not only to protect the child from HIV during the breastfeeding period, but to also offer long-term or even lifelong immunity from the virus.

There is currently no vaccine against HIV infection, and to date there have been only two trials aimed at blocking transmission of the virus from mother to child during childbirth or breastfeeding.

"We need research aimed both at children and adults, and [this funding] is helping make that possible," Barnes said.


Source: PlusNews
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