By Lynette Manzini
The announcement of the Antibody Mediated Prevention (AMP) study preliminary results, conducted in seven Southern African countries including Zimbabwe, scheduled for later this year at the HIV Research for Prevention conferences (HIV4RP) will not be affected by the Corona virus pandemic, it has emerged.
The AMP study seeks to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the antibodies in preventing HIV infection in high-risk, HIV negative women as well as the safety of the antibody infusions over time.
The study participants were infused with broadly neutralising antibodies (bnabs) intravenously (using a drip) every two months during the duration of the study.Testing of HIV and STI’s was conducted on a monthly basis.
Success of the study could have a major impact on the future of HIV prevention and may be informative to HIV vaccine research.
In an exclusive interview with Radio VOP- the University of Zimbabwe and University of California San Francisco (UZ-UCSF) project manager- Dr Nyaradzo Mgodi maintained the study results will meet the set timelines regardless of the hurdles that may be caused by the COVD19 pandemic.
“As per plan, AMP preliminary results will be released at HIV4RP, in October 2020.”
“Depending on the pandemic, HIVR4P may be held in person or virtually. Either way, AMP results will still be released then.”
The HIV4RP conferences are held every two years to focus on vaccines, PrEP, microbicides, treatment as prevention and other biomedical prevention approaches.
Despite the numerous and effective HIV prevention tools available such as condoms and pre exposure prophylaxis new infections remain high with statistics from UNAIDS indicating that 1,7 million new infections were recorded in 2018 alone.
Women account for more than half the number of people living with HIV worldwide.Young women aged 10 to 24 years are twice as likely to acquire HIV as compared to young men the same age.HIV disproportionately affects women and adolescent girls because of vulnerabilities created by unequal cultural, social and economic status.
The long-acting HIV prevention regimen might be easier for some people to follow than a daily regimen of oral medication, as currently required to prevent HIV infection
The 22 month long study enrolled 1924 women from seven Southern African countries aged between 18 to 50.
The countries participating in the study are Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Asked whether the 21 day lockdown by the government to slow down the spread of COVID19 would affect the researchers and study participants she said, “To date we have not instituted any changes in AMP study visits and procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.However, because the pandemic is rapidly evolving, we continue monitoring.”
The research study falls under the essential services that will be operational during the 21 day lockdown.
In addition to 1900 study participants in Southern Africa, the study was rolled out in USA, Brazil and Peru bringing the total number of participants to around 4625.
Dr Mgodi added, “ To date we have administered over 40, 000 infusions across the 4 continents and less than 50 infusions remain per schedule, with only 1 remaining in Zimbabwe.”
Dr Mgodi appreciates the participation of the women and other stakeholders for their contributuon towards providing African women with safe and effective ways of preventing HIV.