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Researchers launch two studies in Africa on new HIV vaccine

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Researchers announced the launch of two big studies in Africa on Thursday to test a new HIV vaccine and a long-acting inject-able drug, fueling hopes for better ways to protect against the virus that causes AIDS.

The start of the three-year vaccine trial involving 2,600 women in southern Africa means that for the first time in more than a decade there are now two big HIV vaccine clinical trials taking place at the same time.

The new study is testing a two-vaccine combination developed by Johnson and Johnson (J&J) with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The first vaccine, also backed by NIH, began a trial last November.

At the same time, GlaxoSmithKline’s majority-owned ViiV Healthcare unit is starting another study enrolling 3,200 women in sub-Saharan Africa to evaluate the benefit of giving injections every two months of its experimental drug cabotegravir.

The ViiV initiative, which is expected to run until May 2022, also has funding from the NIH and the Gates Foundation.

Women are a major focus in the fight against the sexually transmitted disease since in Africa they account for more than half of all new HIV infections.

ViiV is also running another large study with its long-acting injection in HIV-uninfected men and transgender women who have sex with men.

That study started in December 2016.

Although modern HIV drugs have turned the disease from a death sentence into a chronic condition and preventative drug treatment can help, a vaccine is still seen as critical in rolling back the pandemic.

The latest vaccine experiments aim to build on the modest success of a trial in Thailand in 2009, when an earlier vaccine showed a 31 per cent reduction in infections.

“We’re making progress,” said J&J Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels, who believes it should be possible to achieve effectiveness above 50 per cent.

“That is the goal. Hopefully, we get much higher,” he said.

The new vaccines require one dose to prime the immune system and a second shot to boost the body’s response.

Significantly, J&J’s latest vaccine uses so-called mosaic technology to combine immune-stimulating proteins from different HIV strains, representing different types of virus from around the world, which should produce a “global” vaccine.

One reason why making an HIV vaccine has proved so difficult in the past is the variability of the virus.

Initial clinical results reported at an AIDS conference in Paris in July showed the mosaic vaccine was safe and elicited a good immune response in healthy volunteers.

Some 37 million individuals around the world currently have HIV and around 1.8 million became newly infected in 2016.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Tanzania: officials summons WHO over Ebola claims

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Tanzania’s government has summoned the World Health Organisation’s local representative over claims that they’re concealing information on Ebola virus infections in the country.

On Saturday, WHO said in a statement that it had learned of one suspected fatal case in the main city, Dar es Salaam, and two other infections but, despite repeated requests, was given no information.

Last week, Tanzania said it had no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola.

Government spokesman Hassan Abbasi said on Twitter that the ministry of foreign affairs had summoned the WHO’s Tigest Ketsela Mengestu to obtain “in-depth details from the agency on reports circulating in the media”.

A short video clip has also been posted on the ministry’s Twitter account, showing Dr Tigest clarifying at a meeting with Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Damas Ndumbaro that the WHO did not say there was Ebola in Tanzania:

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WHO rejects claims to issue a statement on existence of Ebola in Tanzania.

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More than 2,100 people have died during the current Ebola outbreak in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

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WHO accused Tanzania of hiding information on Ebola victims

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Ebola virus has cause major loss of life and socioeconomic disruption in Africa.

The number of cases has began to decline gradually, following the commitment of substantial international resources.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has rebuked Tanzania for failing to provide information about possible Ebola virus infections.

The WHO said it had learned of one suspected fatal case in Dar es Salaam and two others but, despite repeated requests, was given no information

Tanzania has said it has no suspected or confirmed cases.

The latest outbreak has killed more than 2,000 in eastern DR Congo, with Uganda battling to stop any spread.

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