Women shy away from HIV vaccine trials, researchers say

Kampala, Uganda — Fewer women compared to men are willing to participate in trials for a potential HIV/Aids vaccine, researchers revealed Dec. 15.

Yet according to the scientists, this low participation of women, who are more vulnerable to HIV infection, could hinder comprehensive conclusions on the efficacy of a possible vaccine.

Professor Fred Wabwire Mangeni, the principal investigator of the Makerere University Walter Reed Project, which has been conducting HIV vaccine trials, said that while the number of women who come for screening is high, the actual enrolment for trial is worrying.

“In the trial, which we conducted over the last three years, we enrolled 144 participants, of these only 38 were women. But this is even better than our first trial in 2006 where we were only able to enroll four women out of the 31 participants,” Mangeni said.

Speaking at the fifth Forum of the African Aids Vaccine Program in Kampala, Mangeni said several factors, some cultural, could be responsible for the low participation of women, Monitor Online in Uganda reported.

“We don’t know why women, who are the majority when it comes to seeking health care services, don’t want to enroll. But one idea could be that women tend to always get permission from spouses first and when it’s not granted, they don’t participate,” Mangeni said.

Another deterrent, Mangeni said, is that women who take part in the trials are advised not to get pregnant during the time of the trials.

He warned of far-reaching implications if women don’t participate in HIV vaccine trials.

“It means that when we find a vaccine that has been tested more in men, we shall say this vaccine works in men and for women we don’t know.”