Scientists at Imperial College and St Mary’s Hospital, in Paddington, are looking for healthy volunteers to take part in the studies over a six to 12-month period.
Bryn Jones, clinical fellow on one of the trials, said: “The trials are about helping to make history. It’s something someone can do to really make a difference to HIV in Africa and across the world. We’re asking people to offer their time for research which could eventually lead to an HIV vaccine. This is immensely valuable.”
Results from both trials could pave the way for further research with the hope of creating an effective preventative vaccine in the future.
The team said: “There is an urgent need to develop methods to prevent HIV infection, given the continuing worldwide epidemic and an estimated 7,400 new infections a day globally.”
The first study tests the safety of a potential combination HIV vaccine given as injections which contain synthetic parts of the HIV virus. This includes DNA and proteins that aim to stimulate the immune system to recognise and destroy HIV.
The second trial will assess the safety of a different DNA-based vaccine which is administered to the upper layers of the skin or into the muscle with a small electric pulse or via a conventional injection. This vaccine also aims to boost a person’s immunity.
Clinicians are keen to point out this would not be a cure but could hopefully lead to an effective preventative vaccine.
An estimated 96,000 people in the UK were living with HIV at the end of 2011, according to figures by the Health Protection Agency, now named Public Health England.
The highest rates were among gay men (47 per 1,000) and people within the black African community (37 per 1,000). Nearly 3,000 people across the boroughs of Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea are living with HIV – less than one per cent of the population.
Volunteers will need to make regular visits to the lab at St Mary’s including having blood tests. They will be offered £100 per visit as a token for their time.
If you are aged 18 to 45, generally healthy, have not been diagnosed with HIV and would like to take part, contact the team on 0800 358 3001, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.helpmakehistory.mrc.ac.uk .