Thai Health Ministry Urged to Include More Community Involvement in HIV Vaccine Trials
The Thai Public Health Ministry on Tuesday was urged to "be more open to community involvement" in Phase III trials of two HIV vaccine candidates, the Bangkok Post reports. By the end of this year, 16,000 Thais are expected to take part in a joint trial of ALVAC, a live recombinant HIV vaccine candidate designed by Aventis Pasteur, and AIDSVAX, an HIV vaccine candidate from VaxGen that has already undergone Phase III testing on 2,545 injection drug users in Bangkok. Thai Sen. Jon Ungphakorn, speaking yesterday at a seminar on vaccine development and community involvement, said he did not object to the trial but had concerns about participants' rights being violated after reports that some of the volunteers in the earlier AIDSVAX trial were "treated as if they were criminals." He noted he wanted to ensure that the new trial is "carried out more carefully and openly." Ungphakorn suggested that an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign accompany the trial to inform the public about the project and to "at least help reduce the new infection rate, no matter whether the vaccine will prove successful or not." He said that all of the volunteers should receive "intense" HIV prevention training to reduce their odds of engaging in "risky" behavior, noting that counselors need to ensure that volunteers know that the vaccine candidate "might not be effective at all." Supatra Nakhapiew of the Center for AIDS Rights said that AIDS activists are concerned because some communities where the trial is expected to take place have not yet been informed of the project. She said that people in the communities needed "clea[r]" explanations to help them understand the "pros and cons" of the trial. Dr. Supachai Rerk-ngarm, director of the trial program, "promised" that community involvement is a "major concern" for trial developers and said that the project will not succeed if the community is not effectively engaged (Assavanonda, Bangkok Post, 6/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.