A major clinical trial of an experimental vaccine against AIDS virus has kicked off in South Africa.
The clinical trial began on Wednesday and is one of the biggest clinical trials involving the disease ever undertaken.
The new trial is being carried out by the US National Institutes of Health, the South African Medical Research Council, Sanofi Pasteur the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline, and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.
According to reports, the new study, known as HVTN 702, will be carried out using over 5,400 sexually active men and women aged 18-35 in 15 areas around the country over the course of four years.
South Africa was picked among other countries because it has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world — 19.2 percent. The country also has more than seven million people living with the virus, according to the UN AIDS agency.
Scientists believe the new trial would herald a new era for patients living with the virus. Study results unveiled in July in South Africa indicate that each year some 2.5 million people around the world are infected with HIV.
The deadly virus has sent over 30 million people to the grave since the 1980s. Despite the alarming rate at which people get infected, UN AIDS agency disclosed that half of the 36 million people with HIV around the world have access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).
Earlier this month, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, while speaking to members of the National Council of Provinces expressed optimism that the AIDS vaccine drug would be able to reduce HIV transmission by 50% .
If the trial turns successful, it will be a good news to many patients and would also be a landmark achievement in the history of the country.
Since HIV was discovered in 1983, scientists all over the world, for many years; have been fighting to cripple the potency of the deadly virus. However, they hope after the trial, this new vaccine will effectively combat the dreaded virus.