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IDSA, HIVMA Urge Inclusion of People Living with HIV in COVID-19 Clinical Trials

In a letter sent Wednesday to officials heading federal efforts to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, leaders of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and its HIV Medicine Association have urged that participation in clinical trials of vaccine candidates be open to people living with HIV.

The large-scale clinical trial that began Monday of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases by the biotechnology firm Moderna, Inc. specifically excludes people living with HIV from participating in the trial, while allowing other participants with pre-existing conditions, the letter notes.

The letter, to National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins and officials of “Operation Warp Speed,” a Department of Health and Human Services initiative to expedite COVID-19 vaccine development, asserts that no medical justification exists for excluding treated people with HIV from the trial.

Their exclusion, however, has the potential to limit access to approved vaccines against the coronavirus among whom it has not been tested and to limit acceptance of a vaccine among communities excluded from input in its development.

The letter notes that hesitancy to accept a successful vaccine candidate already stands as a potentially significant challenge to an immunization campaign, with polling showing just half of all Americans – and smaller percentages of Latinx and Black Americans -- planning to get a vaccine against the coronavirus disease when one becomes available.

“To build trust among those highly impacted communities and avoid policies that can compromise the success of these trials, people with HIV or medically at-risk populations and community representatives must be involved from the start in the design of COVID-19 clinical trials and not just brought in at the end of study development to help recruit participants,” the letter says.

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