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Medical News

HIV Vaccine Trial Volunteers May Face Social Blow

December 7, 2007

A new study finds that many participants in experimental HIV vaccine trials report negative social impacts due to their involvement.

Dr. Jonathan Fuchs of the San Francisco Department of Public Health and colleagues studied 5,417 mostly male volunteers in an HIV vaccine efficacy trial. Of these, almost 1,000 reported negative social consequences during the 36-month follow-up. Most of these were attributed to family, friends, and partners, the researchers found. These negative reactions were primarily related to a misunderstanding of the trial participant's HIV status or risk of infection.

Fewer than 1 percent of volunteers reported problems with health, disability or life insurance; employment; medical or dental care; government agencies; or housing, said the researchers.

The study found that of the 368 participants who became HIV-infected after enrollment in the trial, only 12 reported a negative social incident. Most involved personal relationships, such as family or friends asserting that the vaccine caused the infection or made the participant more susceptible to HIV.

"Since a majority of the negative social impact events were due to negative reactions from friends and family who misinterpreted what a preventive HIV vaccine trial entails, trial sites need to continue their educational efforts with both study participants and with local communities emphasizing that you cannot become HIV-infected from the vaccine itself and that these trials seek HIV-negative individuals to participate," said Fuchs.

"A substantial proportion of vaccines may test 'false-positive' on a standard HIV antibody screening test," said Fuchs. "Providers should remember to first ask whether their patients have participated in an HIV vaccine trial before they perform HIV testing, to avoid potential misinterpretation of antibody results and possible social harm."

The study, "Negative Social Impacts Among Volunteers in an HIV Vaccine Efficacy Trial," was published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (2007;46(3):362-368).

Back to other news for December 2007

Adapted from:
11.29.2007; Will Boggs, M.D.

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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