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2005-08-09-Many in U.S. Misunderstand HIV Vaccine
Some People Voice Belief That Secret Vaccine Already Exists
In a new survey, many U.S. adults expressed hope that a vaccine would be developed to fight HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The survey also showed some misinformation about HIV vaccines, write researcher Matthew Murguia, MPubAff, and colleagues.
For instance, 18% of the participants stated that an HIV vaccine already exists and is being kept secret. That belief was also voiced by nearly half of the blacks, more than a quarter of Hispanics, and 13% of men who have sex with men.
In addition, fewer than one in four people didn't know that HIV vaccines can't cause HIV infection. More Hispanics and men who have sex with men got that right, write the researchers.
Setting the Record Straight
WebMD talked to Murguia, who works at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, about the report.
"I think it's very important for people to understand that there is not [an HIV] vaccine," Murguia tells WebMD. "That affects whether or not they're willing to listen to prevention messages and treatment messages as well."
In addition, "it's important for people to understand that you can't get HIV from the vaccines being tested. A lot of people think you can because they think, 'How did we find a polio vaccine? We used polio to make the vaccine.' We don't do that with HIV vaccines. And in fact, there is no live virus in HIV vaccines at all. It's always synthetically manufactured particles that are used. And so, that's a key message for folks to understand that they can't get HIV from the vaccines that are being tested. They are safe," says Murguia.
About the Survey
The telephone survey included 2,000 men and women. Because HIV has hit some communities particularly hard, the researchers also included an additional 500 blacks, 500 Hispanics, and 500 men who have sex with men.
Participants rated how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements about the potential HIV vaccine. The survey may not reflect the entire population, write the researchers.
Best Hope, but Little Support
More than six in 10 survey takers agreed that HIV vaccines are the best hope of controlling the global AIDS epidemic. More than half of participants stated that it takes thousands of people to test a vaccine.
But a lot of people weren't so positive about the thought of a friend or family member signing up for an HIV vaccine trial.
Fewer than three in 10 stated that they would support someone they knew who was considering enrolling in an HIV vaccine trial. Blacks, Hispanics, and men who have sex with men voiced more support.
Safety Checks in Place
"Over the past three or so decades, the government has incorporated some extremely important safety measures and guidelines to ensure patient safety," says Murguia.
"We have all kinds of safety measures in place now that we did not have in the past. Therefore, the patient is foremost in terms of what our priorities are," he says.
Diverse Test Groups Needed
"We really have to have all different communities involved in the research, so that we can show that a vaccine works in all different communities," says Murguia.
"We need to have African-Americans, and Hispanics, and women, and [men who have sex with men], and Native Americans, and Native and Pacific Islanders, so that we can say when we get a vaccine, 'Look, we tested it in your communities; therefore, it will work in your communities.' And that's a key point, because we don't want to get a vaccine that people will be unwilling to take, because it does us no good at that point."
Only people who are HIV-negative can take part in a vaccine trial. Those interested in participating can call (800) HIV-0440 for more information. People with HIV may call the same number for information on treatment trials, says Murguia.
SOURCES: Allen, M. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, online edition; July 28, 2005. Matthew Murguia, MPubAff, director, office of program operations and scientific information, AIDS division, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. News release, NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.