Nature | SciDev.Net

HIV vaccine trials struggle to enrol women

Lack of testing could make potential HIV vaccine less effective for women, say researchers.

Article tools

Rights & Permissions

Jenny Matthews / Panos Pictures

Researchers want more women to enrol in HIV/AIDS vaccine trials.

An article by SciDev.Net

[BOSTON] A low number of women participating in clinical trials of HIV/AIDS vaccines in developing countries is continuing to frustrate scientists' efforts to tell whether they are effective in protecting women.

On average, only about a fifth of the participants in phase I and II HIV vaccine trials in most sites in Africa are women, yet they bear a bigger burden of the epidemic, the AIDS Vaccine 2012 conference heard this week in Boston, United States (9–12 September).

"We could end up with a vaccine that we can only say elicits a good immune response in men," said Hannah Kibuuka, director of the Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP), an HIV vaccine development group in Uganda. "We will not know if it works equally well in women."

More women than men are infected with HIV, they have a higher viral load and their immune response could be different.

Merlin Robb, clinical deputy director of the US Military HIV Research Program, said that although African women attend screening, they tend not to enrol in trials.

One reason, he said, is that trials require women to use contraceptives and not fall pregnant, but most women eligible for trials are usually within the reproductive age.

They may also be more influenced than men by their peers, and many live in societies where they have to seek consent from their partners and parents to take part in a trial, Robb said.

Danielle Poole, a researcher who has worked on human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine trials in Mali, added evidence about barriers to consent. Most of the women, even adults, said they had to get consent from their parents or parents, and most were not willing to participate in HPV trials.

"If it were an HIV vaccine site, I would imagine it would be very similar because both are sexually transmitted diseases," Poole said.

Read more at SciDev.Net

The high number of necessary visits to health centres by women participating in trials may also be an obstacle. For instance, women who participated in the CAPRISA 004 microbicide trial in South Africa had to make 22 visits to the site, and undergo seven internal examinations, in 18 months, researchers said.

The conference was attended by more than 1,100 researchers, funders and policymakers and included more than 440 presentations on the latest in HIV vaccine research.

Journal name:
Nature
DOI:
doi:10.1038/nature.2012.11415
  • This article was originally published by SciDev.Net on 12 September 2012.

For the best commenting experience, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will see comments updating in real-time and have the ability to recommend comments to other users.

Comments for this thread are now closed.

Comments

Comments Subscribe to comments

There are currently no comments.

sign up to Nature briefing

What matters in science — and why — free in your inbox every weekday.

Sign up

Listen

new-pod-red

Nature Podcast

Our award-winning show features highlights from the week's edition of Nature, interviews with the people behind the science, and in-depth commentary and analysis from journalists around the world.