HIV vaccine researchers in Africa have urged the continent's policymakers to give their research greater political and financial support.
The call came last week when more than 200 HIV researchers gathered in Yaounde, Cameroon, for a meeting of the African AIDS Vaccine Programme. Government ministers from Botswana, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania also attended the meeting, which ended on 19 October.
This January, the Global HIV/AIDS Vaccine Enterprise launched a detailed framework for accelerating research into an HIV/AIDS vaccine (see Plan to speed up HIV vaccine research unveiled).
The researchers gathered in Yaounde urged African governments and the African Union to endorse this plan, which identified major roadblocks in HIV vaccine development and suggested strategies to overcome them.
The scientists said that as well providing major funding, African policymakers should focus on long-term initiatives to build research capacity — as well as creating conducive and sustainable research environments.
"Capacity building and technology transfer are key issues for HIV vaccine research and development in Africa," said Pontiano Kaleebu, chair of the African AIDS Vaccine Programme.
"Our scientists often do not return to their home countries after training abroad due to salary differences and lack of infrastructure," he said.
"All HIV vaccine trials, including those conducted in Africa, yield useful scientific information and constitute progress," said Kaleebu.
Through research, he said, Africa could become "part of the solution to the AIDS crisis".
To bolster African science, the researchers also pledged to help strengthen the regulatory bodies and review boards that assess clinical trial protocols, and to help develop national HIV vaccine plans.
The first clinical trial of an HIV vaccine in Africa took place in Uganda in 1999. Since then, early clinical trials of several potential vaccines have been done or are underway in Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda.