A clinical trial of a vaccine that researchers hoped would prevent HIV was stopped by its organizers, according to a statement Monday from The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health in the United States.
“This action was taken because an independent data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) found during an interim review that the regimen did not prevent HIV,” the agency said in a statement. “Importantly, the DSMB did not express any concern regarding participant safety.”
The study, called HVTN 702 or Uhambo, began in 2016 and included 5,407 HIV-negative volunteers at 14 sites across South Africa, all sexually active men and women ages 18 to 35. Study participants received six injections over 18 months, were closely monitored throughout the trial and were offered the local standard of care for preventing HIV.
After 18 months, an analysis found 129 HIV infections occurred among the vaccine recipients, and 123 HIV infections occurred among those who received only a placebo. The report noted there was no significant evidence of either decreased or increased infection rates with vaccination, but the results showed the vaccine was not effective.
Dr. Glenda Gray, president and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council, said the work will continue on preventing HIV infection through other possible vaccines.
“An HIV vaccine is essential to end the global pandemic, and we hoped this vaccine candidate would work. Regrettably, it does not,” added Dr. Anthony S. Fauci of NIAID. “Research continues on other approaches to a safe and effective HIV vaccine, which I still believe can be achieved.”
According to UNAIDS, more than 20 percent of the adult population ages 15-49 in South Africa are living with HIV, and 240,000 people acquired HIV in 2018. Young people, like the volunteers who enrolled in the study, are at the highest risk.
Image: WHO file