Advocacy Groups Call for Greater Youth Participation in HIV Vaccine Trials
At a meeting Tuesday, Advocates for Youth and the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition "challenge[d]" the scientific community to make greater efforts to include young people in HIV vaccine trials. Pointing to statistics showing that half of all new HIV infections occur in people under the age of 25, Advocates for Youth and AVAC called on the National Institutes of Health and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network to take "immediate action" to include more young people in all publicly and privately funded vaccine trials around the world. Only one HIV vaccine in the United States -- VaxGen's AIDSVAX -- is currently in phase III trial stage, the last stage before application for FDA approval. Not one of the 5,000 participants in the trial is under 18 years old, and only one of the 3,200 trial participants for several other phase I and phase II vaccine trials is under 18, the groups state. AVAC Board Member J. Lawrence Miller said, "An effective vaccine that can be administered early in adolescence is essential to the eradication of this disease." Miller criticized the lengthy approval and distribution processes for vaccines, which can take several years. "If we allow this course to continue, millions of young people will die before they ever reach middle age," he added. Advocates for Youth and AVAC are also "challenging" the NIH to identify within the next six months any scientific, legal or procedural obstacles that would prevent young people from participating in these trials, and urged the NIH to work with scientists, policymakers and community groups to overcome any barriers that are identified. AVAC and Advocates for Youth also asked the HVTN, which is funded by the NIH and is responsible for all government-funded HIV vaccine trials, to include youths "at every level" in its community advisory boards, scientific committees and protocol teams. "At a time when two American young people contract HIV every hour of every day, it is clear that adolescents are at the very center of the AIDS epidemic. If we are going to create a firewall against this disease, it has to start with young people," Advocates for Youth Vice President Debra Hauser said (Advocates for Youth release, 12/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.