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November 28, 2018 - Articles -

by Michael Ray Cantrell

In 1987, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) began searching for a safe and effective cure for HIV. Joining forces with nationwide research facilities across the United States, they wanted to develop a vaccine as a trial that could possibly save the lives of millions of people.

According to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, there are 3 million people living in the country with HIV/AIDS. The mission of the vaccine trials program, according to their program website, is to “promote clinical trials that will lead to a safe and effective vaccine that will work everywhere in the world.”

The program uses funds from organizations such as National Institute of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Locally, they partner with organizations such as My House, Planned Parenthood, and MashUp, all working together for a greater good.

According to Community Engagement Coordinator Keith Richardson, “Prevention, care, and initiative over someone’s own sexual health is very important.” Richardson has been with the trials program since February of 2018 and finds it to be a very rewarding experience. His primary job is to do outreach and participate in community events.

Richardson works closely with Jarissa Greenard, the Community Educator and Recruiter who educates the community about HIV/AIDS and their ongoing research at these community events. Greenard talks to attendees about the program and how they can become participants in the trials program and the screening process.

Furthermore, Greenard works with area non-profits and other organizations as a way of uniting everyone together who share a common purpose. The trials program is always seeking participants but has a rather lengthy commitment as well as a screening process.

The current study is 22 months in length. You must attend an education session where all your questions will be answered. The program is seeking healthy, uninfected people between the ages of 18-55. There is compensation for participation in this program.

There are also other ways to participate in the program such as serving on the Community
Advisory Board (CAB). The CAB serves as a group of volunteers who give feedback on the program. The CAB also attends events to tell others exactly what the program is about and how others can get involved. In addition, the CAB works with protocols to make sure research is kept up to date for the community.

VUMC topped US News and World Report’s best hospital in Tennessee list according to the 2017 rankings and is one of only 12 sites in the US participating in vaccine trials. If you wish to participate in their HIV vaccine trials program, you may call 615-322-HOPE or 615-343-8140. You can also follow the program on Facebook or Twitter.

It takes a village to find a cure for this deadly virus. Our local village is the Vanderbilt HIV Vaccine Trials Program, the organizations it works with, and the community they strive to help. Together, we can all save lives one step at a time.

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