WINNIPEG, March 7, 2014 /CNW/ - With more than 40 HIV vaccine trials in
various stages of progress around the world, researchers and industry
experts are optimistic that a successful vaccine will be developed.
Testing candidate vaccines ultimately involves human clinical trials,
but recruiting trial volunteers can be difficult and planning needs to
happen well in advance.
Canadian researcher Peter A. Newman, based at the University of Toronto,
is collaborating with research teams in India and South Africa to
determine to what extent potential volunteers understand clinical
trials before they agree to participate. His work emphasizes strategies to optimize ethical approaches to
conducting research with marginalized populations.
Newman's research focuses on recognizing and understanding the social,
cultural, and language barriers to obtaining informed consent of trial
participants. His team is using that understanding to develop and test
more effective ways of explaining key HIV vaccine trial concepts as
part of the informed consent process.
"We don't want trials to be built on misunderstanding because
participants are then much more wary and may pull out of a trial. It's
important that participants understand no one is trying to hurt them,"
says Newman, the principal investigator of a project on Social and
Behavioural Research on HIV Vaccines, which is funded in part by a
large-team grant through the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative (CHVI).
"Dr. Newman's work is setting the stage for vaccine uptake in the long
term because it addresses the social and behavioural factors that are
relevant to potential participants in future vaccine clinical trials,"
says Greg Hammond, Director of the CHVI Research and Development
Alliance Coordinating Office (ACO). "The integration of social and
clinical science is vital to advancing HIV vaccines."
Newman's current research is examining clinical trial comprehension
levels of men who have sex with men (MSM) and sex worker communities in
Mumbai and Chennai, India. Preliminary results show there is
"widespread misunderstanding and lack of acceptance" of placebo and
random assignment. Those misconceptions can cause clinical trial
participants to become suspicious that the trials are somehow
"cheating" them or, on the other hand, may result in the false belief
that products tested in clinical trials will offer protection from HIV
Researchers aim to use simple, sixth-grade language when explaining a
clinical trial to potential volunteers, but Newman says investigators
must also consider the cultural context and the potential for perceived
mistrust. "What is the way local communities understand and communicate
about what a vaccine does? How are you engaging with trial participants
beginning with their existing conceptions of HIV, vaccines and clinical
trials? We can avert a lot of misunderstanding by asking such
questions," he says.
Engaging key local community leaders and educators early on is important
because they are best suited to inform potential trial participants and
enable decision-making that is truly informed. "It will pave the way to
more effective communication and more solid clinical trials," he says.
Newman's work will be the subject of an upcoming webinar on the CHVI
Research and Development Alliance Virtual Community (Alliance VC) - a
web-based communication tool for the HIV vaccine research and
development community. For more information about the Alliance VC,
The CHVI is a five-year collaborative initiative between the Government
of Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and represents a
significant Canadian contribution to global efforts to develop a safe,
effective, affordable and globally accessible HIV vaccine. The ACO was
established by the Government of Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation in 2011 at the International Centre for Infectious Diseases
(ICID), a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization based in
Winnipeg, Manitoba. The ACO is funded by the Public Health Agency of
SOURCE: Alliance Coordinating Office
For further information:
Communications Specialist, Alliance Coordinating Office
International Centre for Infectious Diseases