Transitions: Community Participation
Volume 14, No. 3, April 2002
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By David Mariner, former staff member at Advocates for Youth
I believe that a safe, cost-effective, HIV vaccine is humanity's best hope for ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and I am happy to have played a part in working to reach this goal.
- David Mariner
Sometimes I think that future generations will ask "What did you do to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic?" Some people may already have an answer. It could be, "I volunteer at a local clinic." "I participate in an annual fund raising event." "I wrote a letter to my Congressperson." "I am running for the local school board so we can use an effective HIV prevention curriculum in the schools." Some might say, "I participate in a community advisory board, advising and assisting in vaccine trials."
I am proud to be one of thousands who have participated in an HIV vaccine trial. I believe that a safe, cost-effective, HIV vaccine is humanity's best hope for ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and I am happy to have played a part in working to reach this goal.
The decision to participate in a trial is a deeply personal one, and it is not made lightly or easily. Most vaccine trials seek participants who are HIV-negative, although some therapeutic trials seek participants who are HIV-positive. Most trials also require participants to be age 18 or over. Thanks, in part, to the work of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition and Advocates for Youth, young people under age 18 are being allowed to participate in some trials.
When I considered participating, I was given an informed consent document that outlined everything I needed to know about the trial. It was quite wordy, so I took my time going over it, and I asked questions about things I didn't understand. My questions were similar to those of many prospective participants:
- What is the vaccine made of?
- What are potential side effects and how might they affect me?
- Will the vaccine infect me with HIV? (The answer is, "No.")
- Can I commit to completing the trial? (Many trials last for more than a year, requiring multiple visits.)
- Can I fit these appointments into my school and/or work schedule?
Because I have supportive friends and co-workers and time to make my appointments, I decided that I could make this commitment. It was a fairly easy decision for me, but it isn't an easy decision for everyone.
Future generations will ask, "What did you do to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic?" I will be proud to say that I participated in HIV vaccine trials. It is one way I can truly make a difference. What will you say?
Next Chapter: Plain Talk—Communities Mobilizing to Reduce Adolescents' Sexual Risks
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Transitions (ISSN 1097-1254) © 2002, is a quarterly publication of Advocates for Youth—Helping young people make safe and responsible decisions about sex. For permission to reprint, contact Transitions' editor at 202.419.3420.
Editor: Sue Alford