HPP Celebrates World AIDS Vaccine Day in Umlazi
The HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP) within the College of Health Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal recently hosted a World AIDS Vaccine Day event at the Prince Mshiyeni Hospital’s Nurses Residence Hall in Umlazi.
The World AIDS Vaccine Day also known as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day is observed annually on 18 May to advocate and promote an urgent need for a vaccine to prevent HIV and AIDS. AIDS continues to claim lives on a daily basis with the sub-Saharan Africa region being worst hit by the pandemic.
The most recent Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS report) estimated that there were 36.7 million people living with HIV. The report also estimated that there were 2.1 million new infections and 1.1 million AIDS-related deaths in 2016.
The World AIDS Vaccine Day is also aimed at educating communities that antiretroviral treatment is not a cure.
Addressing attendees of the event, HPP researcher and UKZN lecturer, Dr Paradise Madlala said the World AIDS Vaccine Day is observed to inform the world about the efforts being made on research for a vaccine. It brings us hope to know that there are consented efforts towards finding an efficacious vaccine.’
Madlala’s presentation focused on the duration between the discovery of the microbiological cause of an infectious disease and the development of a vaccine. This is a long process because it involves multiple steps, he explained. Stage 1 involves generating ideas and experimentation in basic laboratory settings. Stage 2 involves animals where experimental vaccines are produced in small amounts and tested and improved on animals. The vaccines that seem safe and most effective in animals are then considered for testing in people. Stage 3 involves testing vaccines on people in a series of studies and this process takes years and; stage 4 is the final stage which involves the licensing of the vaccine that is found to be safe and effective. The vaccine is then delivered around the world to people who need it. HIV prevention vaccines that have undergone clinical trials include RV144, HVTN097, HVTN100 and HVTN702, however, the first two trials were non-efficacious vaccine while the latter two are ongoing. The HIV therapeutic vaccines that are currently in clinical trial are VRC01, 3BNC117 and TAT vaccine.
The highlight of the event was the donation of 10 microscopes and 50 test tubes to Vukuzakhe, kwaMgaga, Zwelethu, Umlazi and Naleni high schools. Each of the five schools received two microscopes and 10 test tubes.
This equipment, while still in good working condition was no longer being utilised by the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences. The School was therefore more than happy to donate the equipment to the needy schools in Umlazi township.
The donation of this equipment will allow thousands of existing and future learners at these schools to learn how to conduct their own practical experiments. Learners were also afforded the opportunity to give their own presentations on various topics, including what a vaccine is, the meaning and importance of research, and other health-related issues.
The HIV Pathogenesis Programme is an HIV research institute based in the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute at UKZN’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine led by Director, Professor Thumbi Ndung’u. The HPP operates a research study site based on the grounds of Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in Umlazi and most of its research participants therefore come from Umlazi Township. In an effort to give back to the community who essentially make its research endeavours possible, the HPP hosts the majority of its community engagement events in Umlazi. Researchers’ efforts at the HPP are primarily geared towards the development of an efficacious HIV vaccine and the HPP therefore recognises the significance of World AIDS Vaccine Day, the purpose of which is to continue to promote the burning need for a vaccine to prevent HIV infections and AIDS.
Words by: Lihle Sosibo