HIV vaccine design program launched in India

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New Delhi, Mar 3: The Translational Health Sciences and Technology Institute (THSTI), an autonomous institute of the Government's Department of Biotechnology, and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has jointly announced an agreement to operate and fund an HIV vaccine design program in India.

The program, which will cost Rs. 50 crore over five years, will include the establishment of a new laboratory in THSTI campus in New Delhi.

The program will primarily focus on one of the greatest scientific challenges of AIDS vaccine design and development: the elicitation of antibodies capable of neutralizing a broad spectrum of circulating HIV variants, a problem that stems in large part from the almost unparalleled mutability of HIV.

"With 7,100 people newly infected with HIV every day, effective tools to prevent infection are indispensable to the fight against HIV and AIDS," said M.K. Bhan, Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology.

Meanwhile, under the banner of the Indian Drug Users Forum (IDUF), patients who have tested positive for HIV gathered here to opposed the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with European Union that restricts them access to affordable medicines.

Presenting the painful scenario of their lives, IDUF activist Abou Mere said that the government provides drugs free of cost and if drugs are patented and come under FTA, the prices would increase.

"Government is providing drug free of cost, but if this patent takes place then the cost will go up. But what I am trying to highlight over here is Hepatitis C treatment has been patented and out of hundred, more than 90 percent people are affected and we, people who use drugs are not in a position to afford these drugs," said Abou Mere.

"It may be ex-users or current users, we are not in a position to afford these drugs and many people are dying. Therefore, the platform of Indian drug users has come out to against this free trade agreement," he added.

Abou Mere further informed that maximum people, who have tested positive for HIV, are poor, and the government must reconsider the decision to concur to the FTA.

Rajiv Kafle, a member of the Asia Pacific Network of the HIV-Positive People, said that these drugs are the lifelines of the HIV affected persons and if Government yields to the European Union's dictum, it would spell doomsday for the patients.

"We are here asking for our lives. These drugs mean they are our lifelines. And in the past when we didn't not have access to antiretroviral drugs, I have seen a lot of deaths due to HIV. We used to think that only rich people deserve to live and the poor people will deserve to die because of the cost involved in the drugs," Kafle added.

ANI

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