Volume 6 Supplement 3

AIDS Vaccine 2009

Open Access

P15-28. Attitudes and awareness of HIV vaccine research in HIV uninfected MSM in four US cities: Rochester, Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia

  • SB Alexander1,
  • CA Bunce2,
  • M Lanier3,
  • J Maynard4 and
  • G Morrow-Hall5
Retrovirology20096(Suppl 3):P229


Published: 22 October 2009


The Step Study results generated volumes of press coverage. Complex results, with negative news of some vaccine recipients being at higher risk of infection than similar men who received placebo, might have created a negative environment within the community that would be recruited for future HIV vaccine studies. Focus groups in four cities were convened to assess the current attitudes and awareness of HIV vaccine research.


Seven groups were recruited through Craig's List and outreach through community-based organizations. Each of the 66 participants was self-reported as an HIV uninfected man who has sex with men and is between the age of 18 and 45. The same discussion guide was used for all seven groups; progressing through word association with ''HIV'' and ''HIV vaccine,'' identifications of barriers and motivators to participation in clinical trials, and classification of the trustworthiness of sources of information on clinical trials.


HIV vaccine was strongly associated with the word ''HOPE.'' The top barrier to participation is a fear of being exposed to HIV from a belief that the vaccines contain the HIV virus or that they would be expected to have unprotected sex as part of the study. Other barriers were focused on study related issues, e.g., side effects, duration of study. The motivators for participation were highly related to altruism or to an expected benefit to oneself. Personal health care providers, community-based organizations and local universities were trusted sources of information. Religious leaders were distrusted as sources of information on clinical trials. Governments and health insurers were neutral to distrusted.


Recruitment for HIV vaccine trials must overcome low public awareness of HIV vaccine research. Messages must appeal to the altruistic motivators to participation and address the barriers to participation that arise from lack of knowledge about modern vaccine development and clinical research.

Authors’ Affiliations

Communications and External Relations, HIV Vaccine Trials Network
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
University of Pennsylvania
The Fenway Institute
San Francisco Department of Public Health


© Alexander et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2009

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd.