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AIDS vaccine research in Asia: needs and opportunities

Report from a UNAIDSWHONIID meeting Tokyo, 28-30 October 1998

Unaids Report

A meeting was organized by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) with the following objectives: (i) to discuss public health and economic rationale to accelerate the development and evaluation of HIV vaccines suitable for use in Asia; (ii) to review ongoing preclinical HIV vaccine research in Asia; (iii) to review the Asian experience in conducting clinical trials of HIV candidate vaccines; (iv) to explore possibilities for international collaboration between countries in the region and with other countries and institutions; and (v) to discuss issues related to availability of future effective HIV vaccines. The meeting was attended by participants from Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, South Korea, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

The HIV epidemic in Asia is rapidly spreading and has already resulted in a total of 7 million HIV infections in the region. The epidemic already has a significant public health and economic impact, which may be worse in the future, unless effective intervention programmes are successfully implemented. A safe, effective, and affordable vaccine should be considered as the best hope for a long-term solution to the HIV epidemic in Asia. Asian scientists and institutions have established a number of international collaborations to isolate and characterize prevalent HIV-1 strains (mostly belonging to subtypes C and E) and are developing candidate vaccines based on these subtypes. In the region, phase I/II clinical trials of preventative HIV candidate vaccines have been conducted in Australia, China and Thailand. Since 1993, a comprehensive National AIDS Vaccine Plan has allowed Thailand to conduct phase I/II trials of six different preventative or therapeutic candidate vaccines, and the first phase III preventative efficacy trial has been approved. The meeting identified both the needs and the opportunities to intensify international collaboration to accelerate the development of HIV vaccines in Asia.

*See Appendix for meeting participants.

Sponsors: Jointly organized by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Geneva, Switzerland (José Esparza); the World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva, Switzerland (Teresa Aguado and Laurie Ingels); and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), Tokyo, Japan (Tamami Umeda and Shudo Yamazaki). The meeting was funded by UNAIDS and WHO and by grants received from the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Japan and the Department of Health and Family Services of Australia.

Corresponding author and request for reprints: Dr José Esparza, Vaccine Team, Department of Policy, Strategy and Research, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 20 Avenue Appia, CH-1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland.

Copyright © 1999 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.