Expatriates may soon be able to receive an inoculation against HIV on international private medical insurance policies, following a promising study in the US state of Atlanta.
Researchers at GeoVax Labs and Emory University have developed a shot that appears to have prevented nonhuman primates from suffering from simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), despite numerous exposures to the disease.
SIV is very similar to HIV although it affects animals such as monkeys and chimpanzees instead of humans. Experts now generally accept that HIV evolved from SIV.
Non-human primates were given two inoculations by scientists – one when the animals were born and the other at two months old – before receiving booster vaccinations when they were four and six months of age.
They were then put in danger of contracting SIV 12 times on a weekly basis, which resulted in 70 per cent protection from the illness overall and an 87 per cent efficacy of exposure.
During the following two years, the test subjects were then exposed to the illness several more times, with high levels of effectiveness discovered.
"Repeated challenges in animals are used to mimic sexual transmission," said Harriet Robinson PhD, chief scientific officer at GeoVax Labs and former director of the division of microbiology and immunology at Yerkes National Primate Research Center.
"The hope is that the results in the nonhuman primate models will translate into vaccine-induced prevention in humans," she added.
The research was presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.
According to the US Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook, 25.9 per cent of people in Swaziland aged between 15 and 49 are living with HIV or Aids at the moment.
Other countries where expatriates might need to ensure their international health insurance policies cover treatment for this illness include the African nation of Botswana, where 24.8 per cent of adults suffer from the virus, with this figure reaching 23.6 in Lesotho.
Outside of Africa, the Bahamas has the highest prevalence of HIV and Aids, with 3.1 per cent of 15 to 49 year olds infected with the disease.