Rutgers New Jersey Medical School to participate in global HIV vaccine trial

Shobha Swaminathan, associate professor of medicine at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said Rutgers is the only site in New Jersey participating in the study.
Photo by Photo by Rutgers.edu | The Daily TargumShobha Swaminathan, associate professor of medicine at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said Rutgers is the only site in New Jersey participating in the study.

The Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) Clinical Research Center will participate in a global attempt at enrolling 3,800 people who have tested HIV negative in the first Phase 3 HIV efficacy trial conducted in more than a decade, according to an article on Rutgers Today.

“We are the only New Jersey site participating in the study, and it’s great that we are able to bring this effort to Essex and Hudson counties,” said Shobha Swaminathan, associate professor of medicine at NJMS and clinical research site leader of trials funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to the article.

This project is a joint effort of the NIH, the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and Janssen Pharmaceutica, according to the article. They plan to recruit approximately 50 to 100 people from the greater Newark area.

Their goal is to develop a vaccine that will provide HIV immunity for life, according to the article. In a study called Mosaico, the participants will receive regular medical care and HIV testing. This will not only benefit them, but also help with the advancement of scientific and clinical research.

Despite the rates of HIV and AIDS decreasing overall, the risk for certain populations has increased, according to the article. Gay and transgender people have a higher risk of HIV infections.

While openly gay and bisexual men only represent 4 percent of the population, they make up approximately two-thirds of new HIV diagnoses, according to the article.

PrEP is the preventative medication meant to stop new cases, but may be challenging for some to keep up, according to the article. This is particularly true for those who face financial issues and have unstable housing.

“PrEP is a good option for some but not adequate for others, who are vulnerable,” Swaminathan said. “We need better options.”

Travis Love and Jamir Tuten, clinical research center community liaisons, focus on the lives of members in the local LGBTQ+ community, according to the article. The center has put on a transgender fashion show for the last three years.

They also work to reduce stigma around HIV and research by building relationships with the LGBTQ+ communities in Newark, according to the article.

“We explain that prevention isn’t centered around negative things,” Tuten said, according to the article. “We talk about sex positivity.”

They received the Newark PROUD award for their work in 2019, according to the article.

Swaminathan said this community-based relationship will help recruit Mosaico volunteers, according to the article. She said this will help those who participate feel confident that they will be treated with respect in a safe space.

“We are excited about Mosaico,” Love said. “It’s offering another treatment perspective in the hunt for a permanent method, and it’s in Phase 3, so we have big hope.”