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HIV Vaccine Field Trials In Advanced Stage

Field trials of a HIV vaccine developed in the US are at an advanced stage but it could be a while before it is made available to the public, says an expert involved in the project. //

"You must appreciate that this is a huge effort. There are large numbers of people involved and we have to be very careful with our testing methods. We are on the way but it will be a while before the vaccine is commercially available," said Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, commander of the US Army Medical Research and Material Command.

He was speaking at a session on HIV/AIDS on the second day of the 16th Asia-Pacific Military Medicine Conference here.

The vaccine was developed under the US Military HIV Research Programme. It is currently being tested in the US and Thailand and the trials will expand to East Africa in 2007, Schoomaker stated.

The trials, designed to answer the question of whether or not the vaccine is effective in preventing HIV infection, can take three to five years to complete, he explained.

Human trials of other vaccines are also being carried out in countries like China and South Africa but have not yet proved to be significantly effective against HIV.

Detailing the efforts of the Indian armed forces in preventing and controlling HIV, Col. A.K. Verma of the Army Medical Corps (AMC) said every effort was being made to "retain" all positive cases to avoid stigma and discrimination.

"As a result, it has been possible to stem the incidence of HIV in the services," he added.

HIV incidence in the armed forces is a mere .028 percent against a national average of .9 percent. The incidence is .026 percent in the US armed forces, largely due to compulsory screening at the entry stage. India is now mulling a similar move.

According to Col. Verma, 92 Information, Education and Communication (IEC) modes had been established all over the country to spread awareness about the disease, while immunodeficiency centres have also been set up to administer antiretroviral therapy drugs to the patients and their families.

More than 40 million people around the world have been infected by HIV/AIDS and some 25 million people have died.

--Edited IANS

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