By Adam Young
Researchers at the University of Rochester HIV Vaccine Trials Unit are conducting the first study in Rochester of a potential oral HIV vaccine.
The hope is that by delivering the vaccine in pill form via the “mucosal surface” of the mouth, the immune system’s fight will be strengthened from the get-go.
Dr. Michael Keefer, Director of the HIV Vaccine Trials Unit of the Rochester Victory Alliance at the U of R, is one of the doctors leading the study. “The idea is that by delivering it through these capsules we get it to the place where it can create these better immune responses on mucosal surfaces, which is where HIV first encounters the T4 cells when it causes infection in people,” Dr. Keefer said.
The theory behind the oral delivery of the Harvard-developed vaccine is that the capsules can weather the participant’s stomach acid to reach the immune system at a greater depth and not be inactivated by the stomach. The main component of the vaccine, Adenovirus 26, is expected to trigger an immune response from the body that may be capable of combatting HIV. Though the vaccine may cause some “bug”-like symptoms, Dr. Keefer expects the vaccine will produce no serious symptoms in the trial participants. Since the vaccine contains no living or killed HIV, it is impossible to contract HIV from the vaccine.
The study is a “dose escalation” study. Four groups, each consisting of six HIV-negative participants between the ages of 18 and 40, will be under isolated observation at a site at St. Mary’s Hospital. Assuming the first group tolerates the initial dosage with no serious side effects, the dosage will be gradually escalated throughout each remaining group. Participants will be observed and isolated throughout the duration of the study to ensure the vaccine causes no serious symptoms and to prevent the possibility of spreading the Adenovirus to others.
“Our main concern is that [it’s] safe,” Dr. Keefer said. “Effectiveness is the next thing we want to achieve.”
In order to combat the adaptability of HIV, Dr. Keefer stated the vaccine may need to be combined with other types of HIV vaccines to ultimately be effective. The one-two punch approach may be necessary to prevent virus immunity from fading over time. “We need to get the immune response to recognize the three-dimensional structures as opposed to just the linear structures on the virus,” Dr. Keefer said.
After 27 years of preventive HIV vaccine research, Dr. Keefer believes this oral vaccine could be another piece of the puzzle in moving toward a safe, effective HIV vaccine. He is confident the study will go well and it will move on to larger studies, and ultimately licensure studies. “I could see it making a fast track into larger studies. But this is the first thing we have to do and it does take a while to move through these phases of studies,” Dr. Keefer said.
For more information about the work of the Rochester Victory Alliance, visit www.rochestervictoryalliance.org or call (585) 756-2329.
By Trillium Health
Every year, the National Coalition for LGBT Health sponsors a week-long recognition of LGBT health in late March. At Trillium Health, we know LGBT health is important every day, for every identity, at every stage.
Our Rochester community has an amazing group of LGBT-centered organizations that work hard every day to improve the quality of life for all of us. With the combined effort and strength of these organizations, we are proud to be able to dedicate an entire month to LGBT health awareness here in Rochester.
Some of the highlights of this year’s health month include events and outreach to address current trends that we are observing in the community. These include everything from LGBTQ individuals looking to start families, to an increase in awareness of Truvada as PrEP – an HIV prevention medication strategy proven to be effective in preventing HIV infection.
One of the many exciting events during the month will be an afternoon of self-care focused on the Trans* community. This event, to be held on Sunday, March 29, will offer mini-workshops (such as Yoga for Your Body) and a free clothing closet.
Another much-anticipated program, Creating LGBTQ Families, will take place on Wednesday, March 25. This event will offer both a panel discussion and information tables with representatives from CNY Fertility, Adoption STAR, Children Awaiting Parents, and Monroe County Foster Care.
Trillium Health will also be out at The Bachelor Forum on Mondays to cheer for Mrs. Kasha Davis as she stars in RuPaul’s Drag Race and to offer information and outreach about the importance of HIV and STI testing and how PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) can help prevent HIV transmission.
Finally, don’t miss out on “50 Ways to Play!” Jenna Weintraub, educator from Planned Parenthood, will lead this fun, sex-positive discussion. This kink event will be open to all people who identify as feminine in a way that is significant to them.
For a complete listing of events, please look at the calendar published on the back cover of this Empty Closet issue. It will also be posted on the Trillium Health website at www.trilliumhealth.org
For further information about LGBT Health Month and local resources, please contact Cara Wood (CWood@trilliumhealth.org) or Jessica Cohen (JCohen@trilliumhealth.org) or contact us by phone at 585-545-7200.
Awareness around the need for increased resources for the health and well-being of LGBT New Yorkers is more important than ever. Trillium Health and our community partners are committed to providing the services crucial to the health of our community. Wellness begins with you and me.
Due to exceptionally high interest in the Feb. 21 Intersections Workshop, “Strengthening our LGBTQ and Ally Communities through the LENS of DIFFERENCE: Race, Sexual Orientation, Gender and Gender Expression,” organizers are scheduling a repeat of the workshop.
It will take place on Saturday, March 7, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (note changed time), at The MOCHA Center, 189 N. Water St., Suite 1. Christopher Goodwin of The MOCHA Center, Steve Jarose of National Coalition Building Institute and Sady Fischer, Diversity Consultant, will again be the educators presenting.
Organizers hope to schedule new workshops in April and thereafter, dealing with the LGBTQ communities’ relationships with other groups in our area which experience injustice, and how to explore the intersections between homophobia and different forms of prejudice.
A $10 donation is appreciated, but optional.
Register to attend: www.gayalliance.org
Please notify organizers about any needed accommodations. For information: Anne Tischer 244-8640, x13, firstname.lastname@example.org.