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Africa-Specific AIDS Vaccine Sought - 2002-05-31

African scientists, drug companies and donor groups meet next week in South Africa to discuss ways to speed the hunt for an AIDS vaccination specifically designed for Africa.

The meeting in Cape Town on June 3 and 4 will aim to speed up research and testing for an AIDS vaccine for use in Africa.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. AIDS program say there have been more than 30 HIV vaccine trials worldwide since 1987, but only two of them have been conducted in Africa.

That could cause serious problems for the continent, which is home to more than two thirds of the HIV positive people in the world. The agencies say some strains of the virus found in Africa are not found anywhere else, and a vaccine developed elsewhere might not work here.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. AIDS program also say the continent gets less than two percent of the money spent globally on AIDS research every year.

The African AIDS Vaccine Program hopes to raise $233 million to fill that gap.

Some of the money will go toward building up and modernizing Africa's research infrastructure and strengthening the skills and expertise of local researchers.

Delegates meeting in Cape Town will also set a plan of action for the next seven years.

The executive director of U.N.-AIDS, Peter Piot, says "a vaccine for Africa would be the best long-term preventive measure against AIDS."