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HIV Vaccine Trial Participation Might Lead to Negative Social Consequences, Study Says

December 3, 2007

HIV vaccine trial volunteers could experience negative social consequences because of their participation in the trials, according to a study published in the Nov. 1 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, Reuters Health reports.

For the study, Jonathan Fuchs of the San Francisco Department of Public Health and colleagues evaluated the negative social effects reported by 5,417 people who participated in HIV vaccine clinical trials. Nearly 1,000 volunteers reported negative social events -- including negative reactions from friends, family and partners -- during a 36-month follow-up period, the study found. The study authors attributed the negative reaction to a misunderstanding of the volunteers' HIV status or risk of contracting the virus, Reuters Health reports.

Less than 1% of the participants reported problems with disability or life insurance, employment, medical or dental care, insurance, government agencies or housing, according to the study. The study also found that 12 of the 368 participants who contracted HIV after the trial reported at least one negative social event, mostly involving family or friends who believed the experimental vaccine caused the trial participant to become HIV-positive or more susceptible to the virus. Twenty-nine volunteers reported negative social events related to HIV antibodies, although the researchers attributed the events to vaccine-induced antibody results.

Fuchs said that health care providers should ask whether patients "have participated in an HIV vaccine trial before they perform HIV testing, to avoid potential misinterpretation of antibody results and possible social harm." In an effort to minimize negative social effects, the researchers recommended that trial sites "continue their educational efforts with both study participants and with local communities" and emphasize that people cannot contract HIV "from the vaccine itself and that these trials seek HIV-negative individuals" (Boggs, Reuters Health, 11/29).

Online An abstract of the study is available online.

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