South African HIV/AIDS trial scoops USAID award

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29-1-2014

Pretoria - The Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) 004 Tenofovir gel trial was on Wednesday announced as the winner of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Science and Technology Pioneers Prize. 

The prize, which is being inaugurated this year, recognises excellence in the use of science and technology to solve development challenges. It also comes with a prize award of R2.2 million.

The CAPRISA 004 Tenofovir gel trial, conducted in KwaZulu-Natal, was funded by USAID and the South African Department of Science and Technology, and conducted by a group of South African and US researchers. 

It provided proof of concept that an antiretroviral gel used before and after sex can protect women against HIV.

The microbicide gel, containing 1% Tenofovir, an antiretroviral usually used for treatment, was 39% effective in preventing HIV infection in women. 

It also had the benefit of 51% effectiveness in preventing genital herpes infections. These protective effects were even higher for those women who used the gel most of the time.

Tenofovir works by preventing HIV from growing inside human cells. Taken in pill form, it is a common component of various three-drug cocktails that are used to treat HIV infections. 

Minister of Science and Technology Derek Hanekom, in a statement on Wednesday, commended the outstanding work CAPRISA has done in the quest to find an affordable and effective HIV and AIDS vaccine.

“Research on the gel shows how fruitful international partnerships between US and South African scientists can be, in this case addressing one of the biggest challenges facing our country – the AIDS epidemic. 

“Over the past decade, CAPRISA has played an instrumental role in HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment research, making some groundbreaking discoveries,” said the minister.

David Stanton, Director of USAID's Office of HIV/AIDS said the CAPRISA 004 trial was a key milestone in an ongoing journey towards an approved microbicide product for women, putting us one step closer to an AIDS-free generation.

CAPRISA will receive R2.2 million in prize money, which Quarraisha Abdool Karim, Associate Director of CAPRISA and leader of the research team for this trial, said they would use on research to understand why and how HIV spreads so rapidly in young women in South Africa.

“The team is honoured and humbled by this recognition,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za

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