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HIV vaccine

Oct 1, 2009

I am sure you'll receive a lot of posts concerning the combination vaccine that was recently touted to help reduce HIV transmission in Thailand. Reading between the lines the results are questionable. What bothers me is the way the test was conducted. Giving the vaccine to HIV neg men then telling them to use condoms, and safe sex...and then what? hoping they wouldn't..and expose themselves to HIV. Some with placebo actually died. Is this a scrupulous way to conduct such an experiment? The usual experts in HIV quoted in the news articles seem to be mainly interested in the results, no mention of how the experiment was done. Is this the way a vaccine would be tested in the US? Seems very unethical to me. Curious to hear your comments.

Response from Dr. McGowan

Thanks for your comments. I would welcome a discussion about this.

Vaccine studies often choose to study people who are at high risk for the infection so that they can study fewer people for a shorter time in order to find a difference between those who received the vaccine and those who do not. Once a person is enrolled in a trial, it becomes the responsibility of the investigator to ensure that study participants are not put at increased risk because of their participation and that they must be informed and educated about the infection being studied and any means to protect themselves from it (or alternative treatments if available).

The reports of the study have not indicated whether or not participants were informed about or provided access to PEP if they had unprotected sex or other potential exposure. In the US PEP would be a standard practice for people who may have been sexually exposed to HIV.

Hopefully all the details of the study will be made available soon so that scientists and others can digest them and determine if they stand up to scrutiny.



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