KIGALI - The First Lady Jeannette Kagame yesterday hailed the efforts by Project San Francisco, an HIV/AIDS vaccine research project based in Kigali.
Mrs. Kagame who in her capacity as the High Representative of the Africa AIDS Vaccine Programme (AAVP) visited the project to witness the progress it has made since its establishment.
During her visit, the First Lady was taken through different initiatives the project is undertaking which mainly include conducting HIV/AIDS research as well as providing clinical care, HIV testing and counselling for HIV-infected persons in Rwanda.
The First Lady who was accompanied by Dr. Alash’le Abimiku, the Co-Chair of AAVP and Coumba Toure, a member of AAVP based in Geneva, also visited the laboratory facilities of the project before winding up her tour.
The project which launched its first HIV vaccine trial in November 2005 also partners with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and different US Universities and institutions to develop capacity to conduct HIV vaccine trials that meet international standards.
According to Dr. Etienne Karita, the Director of Project San Francisco, whose initial objective was to study the natural history of HIV infection in the adult population, has registered much progress in developing trial vaccines which have helped discordant couples to stay safe.
“I cannot say there has been 100 percent breakthrough in the vaccine that can prevent infection but we have found out that it is possible to have one, I cannot specify but I am sure with the research being done, we will be able to find one,” Karita told the press.
He added that so far prevention is the best option, adding that the research done on cohabiting couples since the mid 80’s has shown that joint couples Voluntary Counselling and Testing is an effective strategy for the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Most transmissions of HIV is heterosexual and cohabiting couples in Sub-Saharan Africa represent the largest HIV risk group in the world.
Feasibility studies done by IAVI to evaluate laboratory, clinical, immunologic and viral markers of disease, have shown positive developments in recently HIV-infected couple known as Protocol C while cross-sectional studies to screen for and generate broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies have also progressed well.
The First Lady is expected to chair a session today on the progress of the initiative to develop an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine at the ongoing 59th WHO Regional Committee meeting for Africa which opened in Kigali yesterday.