HIV Vaccines Questions and Answers for
HIV Treatment Advocates
- Why do I need to know about HIV vaccine research?
As a treatment advocate, you are in contact with different segments
of the community and many people will turn to you for all types of
HIV research information. Therefore, in addition to answering questions
about HIV treatment research, it is important for you to be able to
provide general information about HIV vaccines and explain the difference
between therapeutic and preventive vaccines. Also, some of the individuals
you come in contact with may be enrolled in an HIV vaccine trial and
it would be helpful for you to know how it can affect them and their
HIV vaccine advocates work to address many of the same issues that
you struggle with as a treatment advocate-ethical issues, community
involvement, access to care, sustainability, among others. Additionally,
treatment and prevention (e.g., vaccine, behavioral and microbicide)
research are often conducted in the same institutions, clinics, and
geographical areas. Much could be gained from shared advocacy and
- Why is HIV treatment important to HIV prevention research
and vice versa?
A combination of preventive approaches will likely be required to protect
individuals and the public against HIV and to control the global AIDS
epidemic. Such approaches include:
- Prevention strategies directed at individuals or communities for
reducing risk of HIV transmission associated with sexual activity
and/or with injection drug use
- Antiretroviral therapy to care for those already infected and to
reduce the infectiousness of HIV-infected persons
- Microbicides for vaginal or rectal use
- Treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that are cofactors
for HIV transmission
- Prophylaxis to prevent mother-to-child transmission
- A safe and effective HIV vaccine
In this context, treatment can be viewed as a valuable component of a
comprehensive approach to HIV prevention. Several HIV vaccines are being
evaluated to determine if they have therapeutic as well as preventive
effects. Even if a vaccine given prior to exposure cannot prevent HIV
infection, it may prove to delay or prevent the onset of AIDS or have
therapeutic value in individuals infected prior to immunization. A combination
of preventive approaches will likely be required to protect individuals
and the public against HIV and to control the global AIDS epidemic. Such
How does an HIV vaccine affect someone's seropositive status?
Some HIV vaccines stimulate the production of antibodies against
multiple HIV proteins. Since standard HIV tests (e.g., ELISA) detect
antibodies in blood directed against certain HIV proteins, a person
who is receiving an HIV vaccine could test positive for HIV. The HIV
vaccines being tested do not contain HIV and, therefore, cannot cause
HIV infection. Other tests are available to determine if an HIV vaccine
trial volunteer is actually infected with HIV as a result of his or
her own behavior-related to exposure to HIV.
Does research for a preventive HIV vaccine detract from research
for a therapeutic vaccine?
No. Researchers continue to evaluate therapeutic vaccines to treat
people with HIV infection or AIDS. Many of the same vaccines are being
tested to determine their preventive and therapeutic effects. What
works to prevent HIV infection may not necessarily work to treat people
who are already infected with HIV. Nonetheless, findings from preventive
HIV vaccine research may provide critical information that can further
HIV treatment research and vice versa.
What are the basic facts about preventive HIV vaccines?
Is there a general message about HIV vaccines that I can help
deliver to the community?
HIV vaccines being tested in humans do not contain HIV and
cannot cause HIV.
If HIV vaccine trial participants engage in behaviors that
expose them to HIV, they may become infected with HIV. It is
always important for you to continue to stress the importance of
safe behaviors that will reduce the risk of HIV infection.
At present, there is not an HIV vaccine to prevent infection
or disease. Contrary to what some people in the community may
think, an HIV vaccine is not currently available. Research is underway
to find a safe and effective vaccine that will protect people from
being infected with HIV, but it will continue to take more time
until a promising vaccine is discovered.
Yes. You can encourage people to learn more about HIV preventive
vaccine research and help educate others about the need for an HIV
vaccine within the context of your work. Just as more research is
needed to find a cure for AIDS, more research is needed to find a
way we can prevent others from becoming infected. Therefore, in addition
to helping those who are already infected with HIV learn more about
and gain access to therapeutic research, we need to continue aggressive
prevention efforts, including comprehensive risk-reduction strategies,
and stress the importance of an HIV vaccine in helping to control
the spread of HIV.
As you encourage those already infected with HIV to get involved
in clinical research studies, you can encourage those individuals
who are not already infected to consider volunteering for an HIV vaccine
trial or other prevention study, such as a microbicide or behavioral
Where can I go for more information?
For more detailed information about HIV vaccine and current research,
you can visit the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
(NIAID) website at http://www.niaid.nih.gov/daids/vaccine/default.htm,
the HIV Vaccine Trials Network at http://www.hvtn.org,
or the Vaccine Research Center at www.niaid.nih.gov/vrc.
For general information about HIV vaccines as well as a comprehensive
database that can be searched for HIV vaccine trials by location or
product, you can visit the AIDSinfo website at http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/.
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Last Updated February 23, 2005 (ere)