Greater participation of women and adolescents is needed in HIV vaccine clinical trials, according to a group of international experts, who attended a consultation on HIV vaccine trials in Lausanne, Switzerland, from 26 to 28 August 2004.
The meeting, organized by WHO and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), brought together for the first time 40 experts from around the world to address the issues of gender and age, in particular, as well as race in HIV vaccine-related research and clinical trials.
Measures aimed at rectifying the injustice stemming from the frequent exclusion or low participation of women and adolescents in HIV vaccine clinical trials have been identified. Clinical trial enrolment needs to be more inclusive, so the benefits of research are more fairly distributed.
Studies show that women, when exposed to HIV, are at least twice as likely to become infected with HIV as their male counterparts. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, girls and young women are up to six times more likely to be infected than their male peers. Girls and young women aged 15-24 make up 62% of the young people in developing countries living with HIV or AIDS. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection for biological, social and economic reasons.
Youths and young adults are also at high risk for HIV: about half of new HIV infections in the developing world occur among 15 to 24 year olds.
In spite of the epidemiological reality, women and adolescents, especially girls, have often had minimal involvement in clinical trials of HIV vaccines, as compared with men. This is in spite of the fact that they would be major beneficiaries of a future HIV vaccine. The WHO/UNAIDS HIV Vaccine Initiative promotes the development of an HIV vaccine, including through the …