When HIV was first discovered more than 30 years ago, the medical and scientific community could not have predicted that the virus would come to define generations and change society to the extent that it has.
In Southern Africa, the virus affects women and young girls disproportionately. Women account for 56% of infections and 12,6% of the population is HIV positive. AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death for women aged 15 to 44 years and young girls between the ages of 15 and 24 years accounted for 44% of new infections in 2017 — even though they make up 10% of the population in the region, according to the HIV education organisation Avert.
However, there is hope. The world is closer than ever in the ongoing quest to make HIV history.
It has been a year since Johnson & Johnson together with its partners launched the study to evaluate a new HIV vaccine in development at its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.
“Imbokodo is a unique HIV vaccine study. Intrepid women across southern Africa are volunteering to test this experimental vaccine, in hopes that it might offer a way to prevent HIV. We are grateful for their bold participation in what may be a pivotal advance in the fight against HIV,” says Paul Stoffels, vice chairman of the executive committee and chief scientific Officer at Johnson & Johnson.
The search for a vaccine is began soon after discovery of the virus , but the complexity of the virus has made developing a vaccine challenging.
The trial is enrolling 2,600 sexually-active women aged 18-35 across Southern Africa The goal of the study is to investigate the safety of the Janssen HIV vaccine and whether it can actually prevent transmission of the virus.
“Without the generous contributions of women, we would not be able to move forward in the quest to find a vaccine to prevent HIV,” Stoffels adds.