BEIJING - China said initial test results of its firstAIDS vaccine showed it could protect people against theHIV virus.

None of the participants in the clinical trial's first phase showed severe adverse reactions after 180 days and some showed immunity to the HIV-1 virus 15 days after receiving the vaccine, the State Food and Drug Administration said.

"Initially, this indicates the vaccine is effective in stimulating the body's immunity," the administration said in a statement on its website.

Researchers were still analysing the outcome of the initial trial before deciding whether further tests would be carried out, it said.

Kong Wei, the research team leader from Jilin University, told China Daily the initial results were "truly inspiring" although he said it was still too early to claim success.

The first phase tests began in March last year in southwestern China's Guangxi region, with 49 healthy men and women aged between 18-50 participating, the newspaper said.

The Ministry of Science and Technology said another 800 volunteers, including those from high-risk groups, would be needed for the second and third phases of the trial, the report added.

However, testing to ensure the vaccine's safety and effectiveness could take years.

China started its own research into an AIDS vaccine in 2003 and has already invested over 100 million yuan (12.5 million dollars) into projects for the treatment and prevention of the disease, China Daily said.

Around 650,000 people in China -- or 0.05 percent of its 1.3 billion population -- have the HIV virus, but the rate of infections is rising rapidly.

In 2006, 70,000 Chinese contracted the virus, according to official estimates, equivalent to 192 per day. The government and outside experts predict there could be 1.5 million cases by 2010.