For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, this is a call for participants in a vaccine trial for HIV. Hurrah!
It’s open to “HIV negative men and transgender people aged 18 to 60 who have sex with men and/or transgender people”. Wait, what? And I say wait what on several counts.
Let’s start with the obvious question: what on earth do they mean by “transgender people” as if they are an amorphous blob? Do they mean trans women? Trans men? Are they going to be receiving hormonal treatment? Are hormonal levels going to be part of the study? Which it OBVIOUSLY needs to be since we know that hormones do interact with treatments (something that we didn’t bother looking into for the COVID vaccines because obviously). And to be clear, it’s great that trans people are included in this research: we are woefully low on disaggregated data for trans people. But this is just sloppy research practice and it p*ss3s me off.
Next up, let’s address the obvious omission: HIV negative women aged 18 to 60 who have sex with men and/or transgender people.
I mean, it’s not like women make up more than half of those living with HIV worldwide
is it? It’s not like AIDS-related illnesses remain the leading cause of death for women aged between 15 and 49, or that young women are twice as likely to acquire HIV as their male peers, amirite? It’s also not like young women (aged 15-24), or adolescent girls (aged 10-19) [this stats in particular kills me] account for a disproportionate number of new HIV infections.
In the worst-affected countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, “80% of new HIV infections among adolescents are among girls, who are up to eight times more likely to be living with HIV than adolescent boys. It is estimated that around 50 adolescent girls die every day from AIDS-related illnesses.”
I’m sorry for presenting such blunt and appalling statistics, but they felt necessary in the face of YET ANOTHER TRIAL FOR HIV THAT IGNORES WOMEN.
And this is before we get to the point that vaccines may be particularly important for women as a way to avoid contracting HIV. Why? Because of this:
The traditional advice of using condoms to avoid HIV infection is simply not practicable for many women who lack the social power to insist on their use. This also goes for Ebola, which can remain present in semen for up to six months. And although a gel has been developed to address this problem, it fails to account for the practice of ‘dry sex’ in certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa. A gel which also acts as a lubricant will not be acceptable in areas where women de-lubricate their vaginas with herbs in order to indicate that they are chaste. (IW, p.223)
Vulnerable GIRLS who are being coerced into unsafe sex are perhaps the population MOST in need of a vaccine. But apparently they are not important enough to include in a vaccine trial. GFPs, I try not to get too angry in tone when I’m writing this newsletter, but honestly I just can’t with this. I am RAGING.