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Africa: AIDS vaccine programme comes home

December 15, 2009
NAIROBI, 15 December 2009 (PlusNews) - In what is being hailed as a boost for African involvement in AIDS research, Uganda has been selected to host the African AIDS Vaccine Programme (AAVP), formerly based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The AAVP, a network of African HIV vaccine stakeholders whose mission is to promote HIV vaccine development for Africa, has operated under the stewardship of the UN World Health Organization's department of immunization vaccines and biologicals since its formation in 2000.

"As two-thirds of the global AIDS epidemic is situated on our continent, we welcome the transition of the African AIDS Vaccine Programme to Africa; Uganda is honoured to have been chosen to host this programme," said Stephen Mallinga, the Ugandan Minister of Health, at the fifth AAVP Forum, under way in Kampala.

"With so many lives at stake, we take our responsibility seriously and pledge to work tirelessly towards the day when a safe effective vaccine will be available to protect Africans from this devastating illness."

The transition to a fully functional African programme began more than a year ago and will be completed in 2010; the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), a leading research institute based in Entebbe, will be its new headquarters.

"Geneva has been nurturing the AAVP and it was crawling; we are ready to make it grow," said Pontiano Kaleebu, the assistant director of UVRI.

"The search [for an AIDS vaccine] has been elusive, but we hope to make a lot of progress with the hosting of the AAVP in Africa," said David Kihumuro Apuuli, director-general of the Uganda Aids Commission.