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AF-SouthAfrica-AIDSV 6thLd-Writethru 07-20 Web

AIDS vaccine funding stops

South Africa has stopped funding research on an AIDS vaccine, a leading scientist said today, even as a major vaccine trial on humans began in the country ravaged by the world’s worst AIDS epidemic.

Anna-Lise Williamson, an AIDS researcher at the University of Cape Town, told said that the clinical vaccine trial that began today would continue with U.S. money. But she said South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology had stopped funding her research this year and the utility Eskom’s contract for funding ended last year and was not renewed.

Even though South Africa’s science minister appeared at a ceremony launching the vaccine trial with Williamson and lauded her research, neither he nor Eskom immediately returned calls seeking comment about funding.

The South African vaccine, developed at the University of Cape Town, targets the specific HIV strain that has ravaged South Africa.

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During nearly 10 years of government denial and neglect, South Africa developed a staggering AIDS crisis. Around 5.2 million South Africans were living with HIV last year — the highest number of any country in the world. Young women are hardest hit, with one-third of those aged 20-to-34 infected with the virus.

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