Brigham and Women’s reaches out to Trans community for HIV Vaccine study

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January 6, 2011
By: Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
Researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital are recruiting HIV negative male-to-female transgender persons (ages 18-50) who have sex with men to participate in a vaccine trial to determine the effectiveness of an HIV vaccine. All participants will receive confidential HIV counseling and testing at no cost.

Dr. Lindsey Baden, principal investigator of HIV vaccine studies, said that HIV “is one of the biggest problems of our generation.”

Estimated HIV infection rates among specific transgender populations range from 14 to 69 percent; according to several transgender HIV/AIDS needs assessments and sexual risk behaviors studies.

Baden notes transgenders are a “vulnerable and at risk population,” explaining the My “T” Matters campaign is an effort to encourage the transgender community to participate in this very important research.

This HIV vaccine study nationwide has enrolled almost 700 people. The response locally has been very favorable, according to Baden.

“We do education about HIV and HIV prevention,” Baden said. “That’s something which we are very committed to and want to do what we can to engage the community, particularly the communities that have higher rates of infection because they’re the ones that need the interaction the most.”

In the past 15 years, more than 30,000 volunteers have enrolled in HIV vaccine studies worldwide. Brigham and Women’s Hospital receives funding from the National Institutes of Health for this research.

Many HIV studies have been conducted at Brigham and Women’s, as well as affiliated hospitals such as Beth Israel Deaconess, Harvard Medical School and Fenway Community Health. Participants are healthy volunteers who are at low risk of contracting HIV.

Baden said the studies have shown “very encouraging” results.

One of those is the HVTN 505 Study, which focuses on men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women who have sex with men.  It is very important for transgender persons to be represented in these studies to ensure that as vaccines are developed they are effective in this population. This particular study will use a DNA prime/rAd5 boost vaccine regimen developed by the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Parts of this vaccine regimen are similar to the vaccine used in Step and Phambili.

While this vaccine is not on the path to licensure and is not expected to prevent HIV infection, the results of HVTN 505 will help researchers to better understand and develop T-cell-based vaccines. The vaccine used in this study cannot cause HIV infection.

All participants will receive the best available prevention services, including risk reduction assessment and counseling, condoms, and access to local prevention services.

“I think if we can develop a vaccine to prevent HIV, it would be a really important advance and interest to all of us, particularly communities which are disproportionally affected by HIV,” Baden added.

To learn more about the HIV vaccine research studies being conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, you can visit their Twitter page at www.twitter.com/mytmatters or call 617-525-7327 or email vaccines@partners.org.