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HIV Vaccine Trial Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why are volunteers needed for AIDS vaccine trials?
    AIDS, the disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), shows no signs of diminishing. With more than 6500 new infections every day, more than 60 million people worldwide have now been infected with this virus. Nearly half of these 60 million individuals have died. Finding a safe and effective HIV vaccine that will protect people is a formidable task. We cannot do it without the help of volunteers.
  • Can I contract HIV or AIDS from the vaccine?
    No. There is no way to contract HIV or AIDS from the vaccine.
  • What is involved during an AIDS vaccine trial?
    You will first be asked some basic eligibility questions to see if you qualify for a trial. If it is determined that you are eligible, you will then go to a screening visit where a clinician will explain the plan for the trial (known as the protocol) in full detail. A brief physical exam, some blood tests, and an HIV test will be done. Each study is different, but a typical trial lasts between 12 and 24 months, requiring an estimated 15-20 visits to the clinic. During the screening you will find out exactly what is involved with your trial. At clinic visits you will be asked questions about your health, any side effects you may have experienced, medications and drugs you are taking.
  • Will the vaccine protect me from contracting HIV during the course of the trial?
    No. It is not known whether any of the experimental vaccines will protect you against HIV. It is important for you to maintain a low risk of HIV infection. Our clinic will provide information and counseling on safe sex and on minimizing the risk of HIV infection.
  • What are some of the possible side effects?
    Possible side effects of the experimental vaccines could include fever, chills, rash, aches and pains, nausea, headache, dizziness, and fatigue. Injections can cause pain, soreness, redness, and swelling on the part of the body where you receive the vaccine shot. The side effects usually do not last long and participants usually do not need any form of treatment. However, if necessary, staff will advise you on treatment.
  • Will I test HIV-positive as a result of the vaccine?
    The most common test for HIV is an antibody test. Antibodies are proteins in the blood that defend the body against infection. If you receive an HIV vaccine, you could develop antibodies to the vaccine, causing your HIV test to turn positive even though you are not infected. This is called a false positive test. The false positive test does NOT happen to everyone who receives a vaccine. It does not mean you are infected with HIV. Our unit can conduct other tests for HIV that can prove that you do not have HIV. There is no possible way that anyone can contract HIV or AIDS from the vaccine.
  • How do I become a participant in a trial and whom can I contact for more information?
    Please contact our community educators and recruiters at (617) 525-7327 or by email at