Science FAQs

Your questions about our study.

What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV harms the body’s immune system by attacking certain kinds of cells, known as helper T cells or CD4 cells, which defend the body against illness.

What is AIDS?

AIDS occurs when an individual’s immune system is weakened by HIV to the point where they develop any number of diseases or cancers. A T-cell count below 200 is one of the primary diagnostic criterion.

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, the most advanced stage of HIV disease. A weakened immune system caused by HIV will allow opportunistic infections (OIs) to develop. A healthy immune system would normally fight these infections while an HIV-weakened immune system is susceptible.

How does someone get HIV?

In the United States, most people get HIV through unprotected sex, including vaginal, anal and oral sex, and through injection drug use. Certain bodily fluids including blood, pre-cum, semen, and vaginal secretions, spread HIV. An HIV infected woman can pass HIV to her baby through pregnancy or delivery, and also through breast milk. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never resulted in someone getting HIV. You cannot get HIV through casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands.

Is there a cure or vaccine for HIV/AIDS?

At this time there is no cure or vaccine for HIV. However, there are new treatments available that have been found to be highly effective in keeping people healthy longer and in delaying the onset of AIDS.

Is there a link between HIV and other STDs?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with other STDs are more likely to become infected with HIV. Having STDs that can cause open sores, such as herpes, is especially risky. STDs that do not cause open sores also pose a threat.

Could I be infected with HIV by this vaccine?

No, you cannot. The vaccines only include genetically engineered pieces of HIV proteins, designed to stimulate a response in your immune system. There is no whole HIV virus, either live or killed, used to make the vaccines. No one can be infected with HIV by the vaccine.

What is a vaccine trial?

An HIV vaccine clinical trial is a research study designed to find out how the vaccine works when given to people. It is a carefully controlled test in which people receive an experimental vaccine to find out if it is well tolerated and how it stimulates the immune system. For more information visit the vaccine research section.

Are these vaccines safe?

The research HIV vaccine studies that have been tested to date demonstrated they were safe for the thousands of persons in total who participated in those studies. The effects of new vaccines being researched can not be fully understood until the studies are completed. Vaccines might produce a redness and/or soreness at the injection site, or perhaps mild flu-like symptoms. These side effects can occur whether you receive the vaccine or a placebo, a substance which does not contain the vaccine component.

Will the vaccine I receive protect me against HIV infection?

No. There is, as yet, no vaccine to prevent HIV infection. That’s what these trials are all about. Since all the investigational vaccines are still being studied, you must practice the safest behavior possible.

Does everyone in the study receive vaccine?

No. To have a true, controlled comparison, some of the participants are given a placebo, an inactive substance or substitute, instead of the vaccine. You will not know whether you have received the vaccine or a placebo until the end of the trial.

Will I know what vaccine I am receiving?

Only at the end of the study will you find out. During your screening visit, you’ll be told about what specific vaccine or vaccines are being tested in the study. Neither you nor your clinicians will know whether you receive a vaccine or a placebo. This is called a “double blind” study design and guarantees that all participants are studied and followed in exactly the same way. After the trial, you and your clinicians are told which vaccine you received or if you received a placebo. You may not be able to participate in further vaccine studies. You may also be asked to be involved in follow-up studies.

How long do these studies last?

Generally these studies last about 12-18 months, but may last longer. Your research nurse will be able to tell you specifically how long your study will last.

Who should I contact if I want to know more about this study?

We encourage potential volunteers to visit the Sign Up, Help Out section and make use of the eligibility questionnaire. Please follow the link where you can find more information. For complete information or to join the trial, contact us at 585-756-2329 (756-2DAY) or send an email to: rva_cer@urmc.rochester.edu.