Thursday, October 29, 2020

Groundbreaking HIV clinical study launched in Botswana

Botswana Harvard Aids Institute Partnership (BHP) has officially launched the Antibody Mediated Prevention (AMP) Study which aims to assess the effectiveness of antibodies in reducing the acquisition of HIV among high-risk female populations. The study will give people antibodies that fight HIV in order to assess how well they will protect them from HIV infection.

Speaking at the launch, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Shenaaz El Halabi, said the study is targeting groups which have the highest risk of HIV acquisition. “In Sub Saharan Africa including in Botswana HIV incidence is increasing among young females. There are estimated 15 000 new infections per year in Botswana with an HIV prevalence of 6 % among 15 to 24-year-old females.

It was also announced that risk populations such as sex workers, females with multiple concurrent partners, amongst others are eligible to volunteer in this research.  

For her part, study coordinator Dr Emily Makunike-Shava said, “Eighty-five women have been screened so far but we have enrolled 30 volunteers with 100% retention rate.  We are looking at about 100 and a maximum of 300 participants.”

From Sub Saharan Africa the study will enroll 1500 women from Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. More so, each volunteer will receive 10 infusions over 2 years. The coordinators also said the research explores new ideas of HIV prevention and assess whether the infusion of antibodies in the blood stream of non-HIV infected participants will be safe, tolerated and prevent HIV acquisition on those HIV negative.

The study is estimated to cost P25 million for the whole duration.

The Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) is a collaborative research and training initiative between the Government of Botswana and Harvard AIDS Initiative which focuses on areas such as virology, immunology, and social and behavioural issues relevant to the AIDS epidemic in Botswana and Southern Africa.

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