Participation Rates in HIV Vaccine Trials Possibly Affected by Misconceptions

Participation Rates in HIV Vaccine Trials Possibly Affected by Misconceptions

November 29, 2011 -- On December 1st, World AIDS Day 2011 will be observed in many countries around the globe. The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero"-specifically, zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
A key tool in achieving such goals is the conducting of vaccine trials. Yet researchers who work on HIV vaccines face a major challenge: convincing members of at-risk communities to volunteer for these trials. To determine why participation rates in these communities are so low, University of Toronto researchers surveyed nine focus groups comprising at-risk individuals, and found they held a set of misconceptions.

As reported in on September 8, many of these individuals falsely believe that vaccine trials expose them to the risk of getting AIDS. The surveys also uncovered a general distrust of doctors and medical researchers, as well as confusion over why HIV vaccine trials specifically target people in at-risk communities.

"In addition to the concerns raised by this report, many infected individuals may feel satisfied with current drug regimes that are working-a feeling that can dampen the desire to participate in novel treatments," says Robert McNally, PhD, President and CEO of GeoVax Labs, an Atlanta-based biotechnology company that creates, develops and tests innovative HIV/AIDS vaccines. "Despite the issues with attracting volunteers, the clinical trial pathway is the only method for promising products to make it to the market. Those of us who are involved in the quest for an HIV vaccine recognize the paramount importance of engendering trust within the communities we are trying to help."

GeoVax is testing AIDS vaccine candidates for preventative and therapeutic purposes. Its therapeutic vaccine is designed to treat individuals already infected with the HIV virus and is intended to prevent these cases from progressing to full-blown AIDS. Therapeutic vaccines when used in combination with existing oral medications have the potential to eventually cure someone of the disease. The preventative vaccine is to prevent infection by the virus and reduce its transmission. Vaccines for polio, smallpox, flu and a multitude of other dreaded diseases have proven many times that this route for protection is the only one that is practical and effective.

Last February, GeoVax announced the results of Phase 1 clinical trial testing of its vaccine products involving three trial regimens; the vaccines showed excellent safety characteristics in each, with all the regimens inducing both antibody and T cell responses. The company looks forward to progress in a Phase 1 clinical trial for its therapeutic vaccine being conducted by the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

GeoVax recently announced step forward in its quest to develop a vaccine for this terrible disease: the opening of a third US site for testing the therapeutic potential of its HIV/AIDS vaccine. The Los Angeles-based AIDS Research Alliance (ARA) joins the Atlanta and Birmingham initiatives.

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