I heard about the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) and its clinical trials in a different way than most people. You see, I am an HIV prevention research advocate and have been hearing about the VRC and its HVTN 505 trial through my work in the field. However, it would be almost a full year of carefully weighing my options and what it would mean to be part of the study before I finally enrolled. After some great discussions with other advocates, researchers, friends in the field, and others, I ultimately decided that this was a place where I could give to help move the agenda forward.
This trial for me is really a commitment to my belief in the cause of what clinical research and an HIV vaccine offer to my community. There still is a profound sense of giving when you can, how you can, to solve what you can, and being a part of the HVTN 505 trial was a way for me to live out that mantra; my participation was something I knew I could give to help in this struggle that faces my community.
I would say my experience with the trial so far has been pretty good. From the standpoint of a person who at times looks to criticize in order to foster growth, I’ve been happy with my participation. The study team really does have a sense of caring about the individual in the study and, as much as they are driven to do the research, they also have a healthy and definite respect and even admiration for their volunteers. It is this balance that makes me as a participant feel truly connected to the study and the work that is being done for the greater good.
There is an obvious connection between my participation in the study and my work in the larger HIV field. But my choice to volunteer is something more personal than that: it’s being part of a community that is the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic; it’s knowing that there is a power, promise, and hope that comes with a vaccine; it’s knowing that science can help end this epidemic. But science can’t do it alone. It needs the community to move forward. As I said before, I believe in giving what you can, where you can, to help advance the fight for an end to the epidemic.