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AFRICA: IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS Briefs, 13 August 2001

JOHANNESBURG, 13 August 2001 (PlusNews) - CONTENTS: SOUTH AFRICA: Human AIDS vaccine trials to start in March 2002 KENYA: AIDS education programme launched SOUTH AFRICA: Human AIDS vaccine trials due in March 2002 Human trials on a new AIDS vaccine are to start in South Africa and the United States simultaneously in March 2002, Johannesburg’s ‘Sunday Independent’ reported. Scientists are currently in the process of selecting 48 HIV-negative volunteers to participate in the phase one trials at the RK Kahn Hospital in Durban. Mark Colvin from South Africa’s Medical Research Council (MRC), told IRIN on Monday that there would be strict criteria for selecting the volunteers. He added that the study should be completed in early 2003, 11 months after the vaccine is first administered to the volunteers. Colvin said some of the participants would receive placebos, as this was the standard in clinical trials. The vaccine, which is being developed by the MRC and the US company Alphavax, has been designed to target Type C HIV infection, the HIV strain that afflicts the majority of South Africans with HIV/AIDS and is also most prevalent in the rest of southern Africa. Researchers are hopeful that it will work against all strains of the virus. More than 30 vaccine candidates have been tested in phase one clinical trials since HIV was identified as the cause of AIDS nearly 20 years ago, but only one has so far progressed to phase three trials, the definitive test of a vaccine’s efficacy, involving thousands of volunteers. Phase one trials are usually meant to determine whether the vaccine has major side effects, while phase two trials involve a larger pool of volunteers and test the vaccine to see whether it works. KENYA: AIDS education programme launched An initiative to support an AIDS education programme for primary school pupils was launched last week, the ‘Daily Nation’ newspaper reported on Monday. The second schedule of the Primary School for Better Health (PSBH) project involves pre-service teacher training countrywide. It also involves training of teachers and community members in 1,250 primary schools in Nyanza Province. The programme was launched at an HIV/AIDS workshop for senior education officials. The project is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and managed by the Centre for British Teachers. The training in AIDS prevention and support is aimed at introducing a behaviour change programme in primary schools. The manager, Mary Gichuru, is quoted as saying: “The primary school provides an ideal opportunity for us to educate our children in a range of health issues, including sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS and to make them aware of what is high-risk behaviour before they become sexually active.” The project involves the creation of training workshops for school and community representatives and the development of action plans for better health, teaching and learning activities to support behaviour change among adolescents. AIDS messages will be integrated in the system through drama and other subjects on offer in the schools. The programme will also generate and distributes resource materials to teachers, schools and the rest of the community. Gichuru said the programme will enable teachers to incorporate HIV/AIDS knowledge and awareness in the curriculum through the use of improved resource materials and innovative teaching methodologies. During the launch, Education Director Naomy Wangai said the AIDS Control Unit in the ministry hoped to ensure that every child had access to information and education about the menace. Speakers at the launch however said the implementation of the project would be made difficult by negligent school officials who didn’t see the need to highlight health issues at school. Misinterpretation of cultural practices was seen as another obstacle that would negatively affect behaviour change messages.

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