Emory is on a mission. For some of those who already know of Emory’s Hope Clinic Project (you know, when you accidentally clicked on a random link and strayed away from Craigslist’s Men seeking Men section), Emory is sponsoring a revolutionary study which needs volunteers and are even willing to compensate them monetarily for their time and effort. When asked, Rodney Fox from Pride Medical shared his opinions on this scientific endeavor. The current study applies to HIV-negative individuals as the project observes and studies the interaction between varying combinations of protein antigens and the resulting interaction with a normal, healthy immune system. Pending on the success of this vaccination, the outcome could lead to a “near cure” for those who are HIV-positive by boosting their immunity system with such a large spike that eventually makes antiviral medication obsolete.
An interview with an Emory representative reveals further insight into this project based on a study 7 years ago called the STEP Study, which also utilizes the double-blind format. The study was stopped due to the observance that the control group, which is the participants that receive a placebo rather than the real vaccination under investigation, actually exhibited a lower incidence of contracting the HIV virus. As he explained further into the matter, one primary reason for this skew of data was the failure to comply with the parameters of the study.
The vaccine works by creating an artificial synthetic compound that mimics the HIV virus, which then tricks the immune system in responding and creating the proper defenses against HIV. When the body does come in contact with a real life application of the HIV virus, the body basically says to the virus, “well go away, I already have it.” If a participant under the clinical study goes to another site, for example, AID Atlanta, their swab tests look for the antibodies created in response to defending against the HIV virus, and thus, the participant is diagnosed with a preliminary positive. Specific equipment on site is vital to investigating certain chemical compounds in differentiating whether the participant contracted the real HIV virus or just reacting to the its synthetic doppelganger.
Although participants are encouraged to practice safe sex, there will always remain that percentage that believes that a vaccination is the answer to all their contraceptive problems. When the study incorporates the double blind format, neither the observer nor the patient knows which group actually receives the vaccination or the placebo. Since the STEP study, research has changed drastically in the field. Emory’s Hope Clinic Project observes its patients through five years of regular office visits which incorporates blood work, and three years of follow ups.
What can this medical triumph mean for the future? Pending on the vaccination’s success, for those who are HIV-positive prior to the compound’s approval, the study hopes to create an injection that will eliminate the need for ingesting daily pills and reduce treatment to just a yearly or quarterly shot at your doctor’s office.
To volunteer at the Hope Clinic, participate in the studies, or to request more information, please contact the Volunteer Office at 877-424-HOPE (4673).