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AIDS Vaccine Advocates Hail South African Focus on Youth

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August 12, 2004

NEW YORK -- The AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) praised a new partnership between the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI), which was announced today in Johannesburg.

"This is an important step forward in advancing a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention, including the development of an AIDS vaccine, in South Africa," said Mitchell Warren, AVAC executive director. "We are especially excited about this new partnership and its focus on ensuring that a vaccine licensed for adults also be made available to adolescents in a timely way."

"Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for half of all new cases of HIV in the world," Warren said. "In South Africa, the Mandela Foundation and SAAVI are now taking the lead to make adolescents a top priority in HIV vaccine development."

AVAC, a non-profit advocacy group that works to speed the ethical development of AIDS vaccines, issued a report in May that called for the inclusion of adolescents in clinical trials of promising AIDS vaccine candidates that have reached the final stages of testing in adults.

Despite the fact that many teenagers around the world are at high risk of HIV, adolescents have generally been excluded from AIDS vaccine trials because of ethical, legal and logistic concerns.

"Although the inclusion of adolescents raises challenging issues, these are all solvable issues  -- and they must be solved if we are to develop a vaccine that can reach those most at risk of HIV in a timely way," Warren said.

He noted that two pharmaceutical companies, Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline, are now conducting large international trials of their STD vaccines among adolescents.  

The full AVAC Report, including the chapter on adolescents, is available at http://www.avac.org.  It is titled "AIDS Vaccine Trials -- Getting the Global House in Order."