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As a prevention worker, you are in contact with different segments of the community and many people will turn to you for all types of information about HIV. Therefore, it is important for you to be able to answer questions concerning HIV vaccines, microbicides, and other areas of HIV prevention research, in addition to providing information about HIV testing and risk reduction. Also, some of the people you are in contact with may be enrolled in an HIV vaccine trial and it is important for you to know how it can affect them and their seropositive status.
An HIV vaccine that is simple to administer, inexpensive, and effective would be the most optimal prevention strategy. However, even when an HIV vaccine becomes widely available, a combination of preventive approaches will likely be required to protect individuals and the public against HIV infection, and control the global AIDS epidemic. Such approaches include:
In this context, HIV vaccines can be viewed as an integral component of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy.
There are several important things you need to know about HIV vaccines.
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.
Prior to testing, it would be a good idea for you to ask if the individual is participating or has participated in an HIV vaccine trial. If the answer is yes, you should refer them back to their research site for HIV counseling and testing. Staff at the site will be able to provide testing that can differentiate between a volunteer actually being infected as a result of his or her own behavior and a positive result induced by the vaccine. If the volunteer knows they received placebo, or otherwise does not have circulating antibodies from the vaccine and their follow-up in the trial has been terminated, testing can proceed as usual.
If an HIV vaccine trial volunteer wants to be tested at your site rather than return to his/her research site for testing, you should make note that this individual is participating in an HIV vaccine study on the laboratory form. You should also request that, if the ELISA and Western Blot tests are positive, that a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test be conducted to determine whether the volunteer is actually infected with HIV as a result of his or her own behavior-related exposure to HIV.
If an HIV vaccine trial volunteer wants to be tested at your site rather than return to his/her research site for testing, you should make note that this individual is participating in an HIV vaccine study on the laboratory form. You should also request that, if the ELISA and Western Blot tests are positive, that a PCR test be conducted in order to determine whether the volunteer is actually infected with HIV as a result of his or her own behavior-related exposure to HIV.
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 AIDSinfo.
Last Updated September 10, 2008
Last Reviewed September 10, 2008