Volunteers needed for HIV vaccine trial

Researchers looking for men, trans women who have sex with men to participate in study

Gallegos.Ernesto

Ernesto Gallegos

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

UT Southwestern continues recruiting volunteers to participate in a vaccine trial that has been in progress for more than a year.

The Phase II trial is taking place at almost two dozen sites across the country. According to Clinical Research Unit Community Advisory Board member Ernesto Gallegos, Dallas has been among the most successful at recruiting volunteers — but more qualified participants are needed.

Researchers are looking for healthy adult men who test HIV negative, have sex with other men, are between the ages of 18 and 50 and are circumcised.

They are also seeking transgender women who have sex with men.

Volunteers are screened to make sure they qualify for the trial.
Gallegos said participating would be a 12-to-18-month commitment.

He said his involvement began when he volunteered for the study.

He had a partner who was positive.

In his initial screening, he was disqualified because he had antibodies to the adenovirus type 5. That common virus is a cause of respiratory illnesses.

Gallegos said that when he learned he couldn’t participate directly in the study, “I stepped back [and asked], ‘How can I continue to help?’”

That’s when he joined the advisory board as its youngest member.

Volunteers receive a physical exam and, if they are accepted into the project, they are administered the vaccine in four doses.

Participants are asked to keep a written record of any reaction to the vaccine and are required to go to UT Southwestern once every three months for an HIV test, an interview and risk reduction counseling.

A participant cannot contract HIV from the vaccine because it does not contain the virus itself. It is not made from live, weakened or killed HIV or HIV-infected cells.

Phase I of the trial established that the vaccine was safe to give to humans. This phase continues to test safety and dosages.

Researchers will be looking at whether the group getting the vaccine has less chance of contracting the virus and if those who do contract the virus will show smaller amounts of HIV in the blood.

Half the test group will receive the vaccine and half a placebo.

Volunteers will not know whether they received the placebo or the vaccine until after their participation in the study is complete.

Those who are inoculated with the placebo will be eligible to participate in future vaccine studies. Generally those who got the actual vaccine are ineligible for future studies, whether the vaccine proved efficient or not.

For more information or to volunteer, go online to HopeTakesAction.org and fill out a short questionnaire or call 214-590-0610.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

UPDATE: UT Southwestern Clinical Research Manager Tiana Petersen wrote to update a few items in the story. She said participants would commit 24 months to the study. The Adenovirus type 5 is a common cold virus.

“Phase IIB, is specifically designed to study efficacy,” she wrote. “Researchers will evaluate whether receiving the vaccine injections compared to placebo injections has a significant effect on reducing the number of new HIV infections. Originally, the study was designed to answer questions about whether the vaccine regimen can lower viral load among those who do become HIV-infected, and whether the vaccine regimen continues to be safe.”

Volunteers will not know whether they took the placebo or vaccine until after the study is complete.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Today Show’ features really dumb author

Meredith Viera

So maybe I’m not the best one to offer relationship advice, but in this case, I think I can help.

On the Today Show Thursday morning, Kiri Blakeley promoted her new book, Can’t Think Straight. Here’s NBC’s promo for the segment:

Kiri Blakeley, whose memoir “Can’t Think Straight” describes the shock she experienced when she learned her fiance of 10 years was secretly pursuing relationships with men, tells Meredith Vieira that she “couldn’t get as angry” as she would have if he’d been having an affair with a woman.

Let’s start with “fiance of 10 years.” Really? After 10 years, she thought they were getting married soon?

In the video, she said her fiance didn’t fit any of the stereotypes of what a gay man should be, so she didn’t know. Really? In this day and age you think gay men only fit stereotypes?

But what clues might she have picked up on? They weren’t having much sex anymore. They weren’t seeing each other as much anymore (because he’s spending time with his boyfriend). They weren’t having much sex anymore. And the biggest clue? They weren’t having much sex anymore.

—  David Taffet

Ex-gay treatment for vultures? Gay groups protest forced separation of gay avian couple

Griffon Vulture

Gay groups in Germany are upset that officials at the Allwetter Zoo in Munster, Germany, have separated two male vultures who had set up nest-keeping together and were obviously a couple.

The two Griffon vultures, Guido and Detlef, have been a couple since March, according to U.K. news site The Register. They build a nest together, defended it from the other vultures, and spent most of their time together grooming each other.

But zoo curator Dirk Wewers apparently believed Detlef and Guido’s relationship was what I call situational homosexuality, like men in prison who have sex with other men because no women are available. Wewers said: “A suitable female was missing and in such a case vultures look for companionship from the next best thing, even if it is a male. Detlef looked for a bird of the opposite sex but settled with Guido.”

So the zoo decided to give the two other options by breaking up their happy home and sending Guido to a zoo in Ostrava, Czech Republic, where he would have access to female Griffon vultures. Meanwhile, Detlef, back in Munster, has been set up with a mail-order bride from the Czech Republic.

According to reports, Detlef’s “ex-gay therapy” appears to be working. But over in Ostrava, Guido is having none of it. Reports are he won’t have anything to do with the female vultures.

Both male vultures are 14 years old, which means both are still relative youngsters, since their lifespan in the wild is estimated at 50 to 70 years old. The oldest known Griffon vulture — or Great Vulture — in captivity died at the age of 118.

According to Wikipedia, Griffon vultures are on the brink of dying out, although there have been resurgent populations in some areas of Europe. In Germany, Griffon vultures in the wild died out in the mid-18th century, but, “Some 200 vagrant birds, probably from the Pyrenees, were sighted in 2006, and several dozen of the vagrants sighted in Belgium the following year crossed into Germany in search for food.”

So, OK — the idea of creating breeding pairs and replenishing the Griffon vulture population has merit. But still, it just doesn’t seem right to me to separate what was obviously a loving couple for the sake of making some baby vultures. I am sure there are plenty of other hetero male Griffon vultures available more than willing to take care of the breeding needs.

Either way, it gives new meaning to the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together,” huh?

—  admin