BARCELONA - Researchers at a Spanish hospital announced Monday they will start trials next year of a therapeutic vaccine for patients who already have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
A therapeutic vaccine treats a disease rather than preventing it. Barcelona's Hospital Clinic said it would conduct the trial as part of a four-year research project being carried out with other centres in Spain, Belgium and The Netherlands.
"The goal is to achieve a functional cure of HIV," said Josep Maria Gatell, director of the Hospital Clinic's infectious disease unit.
"This would mean that we are able to control HIV in infected people without having to provide them with anti-retroviral treatment their whole lives," he told a news conference.
More than 30 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, most of them living in developing countries, Gatell said.
"Although combined anti-retroviral therapy has proven to be highly effective to prevent clinical progression and death, by itself it is unable to eradicate the infection and other alternative approaches are urgently needed," he added.
The therapeutic vaccine research project has received six million euros (S$10.2 million) in funding from the EU's executive European Commission.
The trial is being conducted on an updated version of a vaccine unveiled by the same research team in January 2013 which was found to temporarily brake growth of the HIV virus in infected patients.