South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative  

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Introduction to SAAVI - History

The South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI) was established in 1999 as an initiative of the South African government and managed as a lead programme of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). SAAVI’s role was to co-ordinate and support the development and testing of HIV vaccines in South Africa with the aim of finding an affordable, effective and locally relevant HIV vaccine.

SAAVI was initially funded through grants from the South African Departments of Health and Science & Technology, ESKOM, the Impala Platinum Community Development Trust, Transnet and the European Commission.

Much was achieved by SAAVI over a period of 14 years, including inter alia:

  • Establishment of a network of expertise in HIV vaccine development, testing, community engagement, socio-behavioural and ethical issues
  • Improved understanding of HIV diversity, immunology and prevalence in relation to the South African epidemic
  • The development, preclinical and clinical (phase 1) testing of 2 HIV subtype C vaccine candidates
  • The establishment and accreditation of a GLP laboratory for potency testing of vaccine candidates
  • The capacitation of 5 HIV vaccine clinical trial sites
  • The development of ethical guidelines for HIV vaccine clinical trials
  • Substantial engagement with, and preparation of, communities for HIV vaccine clinical trials
  • Capacity development of researchers and technicians in HIV vaccine development, testing, community engagement, socio-behavioural and ethical issues.

SAAVI has continued to receive dedicated funding from the National Department of Health (NDOH) and, since 2009, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate General of Development Cooperation (MAE-DGCS) for its role in the ‘Program to support the Ministry of Health of South Africa in the implementation of a national program of global response to HIV & AIDS’, a joint development cooperation between the governments of Italy and South Africa. The Program was implemented by the National Institute of Health of Italy (Istituto Superiore di Sanita’ or ISS) in cooperation with the South African NDOH, supported by SAAVI.

On 31 December 2012, as part of the revitalization of the SAMRC, the SAAVI Office and the Masikhulisane Community Engagement Programme at the SAMRC were closed. Activities funded through the NDOH SAAVI allocation are now managed under the HIV Programme of the Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships Unit (SHIP) of the SAMRC. The NDOH funds are used to support basic laboratory science, capacity building, community engagement and clinical research.

For more information please contact

Dr Michelle Mulder
HIV Programme Manager
Tel: +27 21 938 0937

SAAVI is financially supported by

SA Medical Research Council
South African Department of Health
Last updated: 31-Aug-2016