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Health professionals need to tailor AIDS research to ethnic communities and gender

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October 20, 2005

Source: University of Toronto:

Health professionals need to tailor AIDS research to ethnic communities and gender

Oct 20/05
by Michah Rynor (about) (email)

The underrepresentation of women, various ethnic groups and those with low-incomes limits the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS clinical trials and can have a serious impact on the eventual success of vaccines, says Professor Peter Newman of the Faculty of Social Work and the Centre for Applied Social Research at U of T.

Newman helped co-ordinate six focus groups involving women, Latinos and African-Americans in Los Angeles and found barriers to participation in HIV vaccine trials based on several concerns: a fear of HIV infection from the vaccine; fear of false-induced positives (testing positive in response to the vaccine); physical side effects; uncertainty about vaccine efficacy and other vaccine characteristics; general mistrust of medical research; low perceived HIV risk in their personal lives; the demands of taking part in a research study; and HIV/AIDS stigma.

Newmanís research also found that these test groups would be motivated to take part in vaccine trials on the basis of gaining protection against HIV infection; free insurance and/or medical care, altruism and monetary incentives. "The rates of HIV infection are higher in certain populations, such as aboriginal communities and African and Caribbean women in Canada," Newman says. "While HIV/AIDS doesnít discriminate, some populations are more vulnerable due to discrimination and poverty; we often know how an HIV/AIDS drug is going to work in a white male between the ages of 25 to 44 but we know less about how well it will work in a woman or in a person of colour."

Newman believes this research will inevitably help those underrepresented in HIV vaccine and other AIDS clinical trials that arenít usually involved or studied. "I want to know how we can facilitate access to clinical trials among vulnerable communities and also to support a process for designing and disseminating culturally appropriate information to enable individuals to decide whether or not they should take part."

"My bottom line is that Iím not convincing people to join an HIV vaccine or other clinical trial; Iím working to facilitate appropriate and culturally relevant knowledge transfer and exchange so that persons from various communities will be empowered to decide if this is something they want to do and to mitigate any risks of involvement."

Newmanís research is partially funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the National Institutes of Health in the U.S.


Professor Peter Newman, Faculty of Social Work, 416-946-8611; e-mail:



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