World's largest HIV vaccine trial

The Borneo Post - Wednesday, 15 July 2002  Page 15

Thailand to hold vaccine trial involving 16,000 participants

BANGKOK: Thailand announced yesterday it will hold the world's largest HIV vaccine trial, involving 16,000 participants and organised in cooperation with the United States Military HIV Research Program. "This project, considered the world's largest, will apply international scientific and ethical standards." said Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan

Sudarat said the trial, to start in December, will be the first in the world to determine the efficacy of an HIV vaccine. The so-called "third phase" trial is being held after the first and second phase, which ensured it was safe for humans. The trial will be open to volunteers in the two eastern provinces of Chonburi and Rayong and the results will be released in five years, she said. "If the tests prove to be a success, Thai people will be the world's first to use an anti-AIDS vaccine," Sudarat said.

The vaccine will be administered in a two-shot injection which, if successful. should give life long protection to the HIV virus that causes AIDS. It will also be the first large-scale trial to test the "prince-boost" vaccine strategy. in Which two different types of vaccine are used to maximise the body's immune response.

Jeremy Plotnick, from Burson Marsteller, which is handling communications for the trial, said participants would be involved on a strictly volunteer basis and would be drawn from the entire community. "The idea is that it will test the general population, not just particularly high-risk groups. In the past that has been done in prisons and the military," he said.

Provincial authorities and local nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) were working with the ministry of public health to set up a communications program for the trial and to address participants' concerns, he said. After receiving the injections. "volunteers will be told to take all the normal precautions in terms of abstinence or condom use, and with regard to IV drug use," Plotnick said.

The trial was announced ahead of an international conference on AIDS which begins in Barcelona Sunday. Thailand is to host the next international AIDS conference in July 2004, in a reflection of the growing crisis faced by the Asia Pacific region where infection rates are rising rapidly in many nations. -AFP

CHEAPEST ANTI-AIDS DRUGS ... a Thai pharmacist holds up two antiviral HIV/AIDS medications at the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO)'s inhouse pharmacy yesterday in Bangkok. At less than a dollar a day, Thailand produces the world's cheapest anti-AIDS drugs, but one woman is determined to give impoverished African countries the know-how to produce them even cheaper. Along with India and Brazil, Thailand has become a global pioneer in the production of generic anti-AIDS medicines, thanks largely to doctor Krisana Kraisintu, who started research into them in 1992. -AFP photo