Throughout the world, the scientific community for years has been searching for an effective vaccination to eradicate HIV. Recently, South Africa has started planning a large AIDS vaccine trial to test the vaccine used in Thailand in 2009. This trial in Thailand is, so far, the only vaccine that has affected the virus when tested on 16,000 people. South African scientists hope that the vaccine used in Thailand that produced 31 percent lower HIV infection rates will be just as effective in their country.
In South Africa, HIV directly affects 17 percent of the population, meaning that South Africans are more likely to have had a greater amount of exposure to the virus than those living in Thailand. Before beginning the full-fledged trial, the vaccine from Thailand will be used on a small group of South Africans to see if it works comparably. Researchers are concerned that differences in the environment and people will change the effectiveness of the vaccine, due to different levels of exposure to HIV than in Thailand.
If the trial is successful, scientists in South Africa plan to modify it so it will be effective against the predominant strain of HIV in South Africa. The modified strain will eventually be tested in a trial of 5,400 people if initial testing on a smaller group produces promising results. This new research and vaccine testing is extremely exciting, as a vaccination for HIV could be beneficial for many people in the country of South Africa. As of 2007, a UNAIDS report estimated that 5,700,000 out of 48,000,000 people in South Africa suffer from HIV/AIDS, making the number larger than any other country in the world. If the vaccination works similarly to the results found in Thailand, then statistically over a million people can be helped or eradicated of HIV. South African researchers are taking large steps to help find a solution and could possibly, if successful, help researchers all over the world in their own countries.
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