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South Africa Tests AIDS Vaccine

Scientists will use 36 volunteers for the first African-made vaccine candidates to reach testing in humans. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Thirty-six volunteers in South Africa will test the safety of an African-developed vaccine against H.I.V. The tests are the first step in human clinical trials of two vaccine candidates developed at the University of Cape Town.

These experimental AIDS vaccines are the first from Africa to reach testing in people. The National Institutes of Health in the United States provided assistance. Testing with twelve people began earlier this year in Boston, Massachusetts.

South Africa has more than five million people infected with H.I.V., the largest number of any country.

South Africa launched the tests last week as the International AIDS Society held a conference in Cape Town. Other human trials of possible vaccines are taking place around the world. Scientists hope to get some results later this year.

But during last week's conference, experts reported the first decrease in international financing for AIDS vaccine research. They say funding dropped from about nine hundred thirty million dollars in two thousand seven to eight hundred seventy million last year.

Also at the conference, scientists presented the latest findings about new mothers infected with H.I.V. Two studies showed ways in which anti-H.I.V. drugs could permit infected women to breastfeed their newborns with less risk of passing the virus to them. The research was done in Cameroon, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Zambia.

In one study, infected mothers began to take three anti-H.I.V. drugs while breastfeeding for up to six months. In a second study, the babies were given medicine, instead of their mothers. The babies received one drug every day during six months of breastfeeding.

The researchers said both methods greatly reduced the risk of H.I.V. infection.

Laura Guay is vice president of research at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which supported the research. Doctor Guay says the problem in sub-Saharan Africa is the limited availability of anti-retroviral drugs.

LAURA GUAY: "We know only about thirty-three percent of women have access to a program that actually has services in place to prevent mother-to-child transmission. So the first challenge is, how do we reach all the women who do not have access to a prevention program?"

In other new research, a study has found that circumcision does not decrease the risk that H.I.V. positive men will infect women. The findings, from Uganda, are in the medical journal, The Lancet.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.