The Rochester Victory Alliance (formerly University of Rochester HIV Vaccine Trials Unit) has launched a new multimedia website brimming with social media tools aimed at informing and encouraging people to participate in HIV vaccine research. RVA is one of the nation’s most comprehensive vaccine trails research center. Since its inception in 1988, close to 1,300 people have participated in more than 50 vaccine research trials.
The key is to eradicate the fears and myths that still persist with HIV vaccine research, said Michael Keefer, M.D., professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and director of the Rochester Victory Alliance.
“Even though the disease has been with us for three decades and sickens folks from all walks of life, a stigma still exists with HIV, and that stigma carries over into vaccine research,” Keefer said. “We need to educate people that we all will benefit from an HIV vaccine and that we need healthy, non-infected volunteers to help us develop an effective vaccine that will hopefully make HIV a thing of the past, like smallpox and polio.”
The multimedia website - http://www.rochestervictoryalliance.org - features several video vignettes highlighting the stories of people from the Rochester region who have participated in RVA vaccine research studies. Extensive use of social media tools brings an interactive dimension to the website, including links to RVA’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sites. These RVA social media sites, updated with feeds from more than one dozen national and international HIV/AIDS organizations, provide a steady stream of HIV/AIDS news daily, along with listings of Rochester-specific events, meeting and seminars.
The site also contains detailed information on volunteering, including a brief video on what to expect during a typical research study and a detailed FAQ section that addresses the most common questions of volunteer candidates. A scientific section features detailed information on HIV/AIDS, such as worldwide statistics, research results and a glossary of terms. An events calendar populated with information from community partners also is available.
Although research advances have greatly extended the life expectancy of a person infected with HIV today, there is no cure. More than 20 million people have died from AIDS worldwide and according to the United Nations, 7,500 more people become infected every single day. At last count, there are nearly 35 million cases of HIV infection worldwide.
Last year, scientists announced the preliminary results of a large study in Thailand that indicate an experimental vaccine may have reduced the risk of infection by 26 percent to 31 percent.
“It has become clear that preventive HIV vaccine research is a complex process and we will certainly be making the most of every clue that the Thai trial provides in our ongoing work,” Keefer said.
Studies conducted by RVA test preventive vaccines, so all volunteers must be HIV negative. Some studies seek volunteers with specific risk factors (i.e., low/no risk of contracting HIV or high risk). For more information on volunteering, visit www.rochestervictoryalliance.org or call (585) 756-2DAY (2329).