There is life with HIV

I have HIV and got a vaccine against COVID-19

I have HIV and got the vaccine against COVID-19 is the phrase that this man, in the photo above. And his experiences; his impressions are part of what is written in this text, written by Michael Carter, in December 2020.

The photo is from Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock.com. 

Good reading.

I have HIV and got a vaccine against COVID-19

I'm totally vaccinated against COVID-19. Isn't that an extraordinary statement?

Twelve months ago, no one had heard of COVID-19. However, here I am with vaccine-induced antibodies that provide a significant level of protection against a virus that has caused so many diseases, deaths, grief, deprivation and loneliness, and has made 2020 a year of sadness for many.

I still cannot believe that I have benefited from a scientific and human achievement that, at least for me, equals the development of effective HIV treatments, which means that I I didn't die of premature death in the mid-1990s in my twenties, but I am alive and well today.

I have HIV and got a vaccine against COVID-19

These medical discoveries are thanks to meticulously conducted clinical trials. In fact, I know that I received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine because in early November I enrolled in an Oxford / AstraZeneca sub-study that was specifically designed to assess the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in people with HIV. Everyone in the HIV substudy has received or will receive the vaccine. 

I received my first dose in the second week of November and the second four weeks later.

 

Development of clinical trials

Clinical trials are essential to test the safety and effectiveness of experimental treatments and vaccines like the one I just received. After a promising therapy is developed in a laboratory, it goes through three separate studies to ensure that won't do any harm Seriously and it will have a real medical benefit. Only if approved in all three stages, a new therapy will be evaluated by a group of independent experts to assess whether it is safe and effective and can be licensed for use by the general public. The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine is about to be approved.

Phase Three. the Final Phase

When I entered the trial, the Oxford study was already in its final 'phase 3' research involving more than 20.000 adults in Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom. 

Participants were randomly divided into two equal groups. The researchers made sure that the composition of the groups was comparable in terms of age, sex, race and underlying health conditions. 

One group received the experimental vaccine and the other a placebo (a sham therapy, in this case a vaccine against meningitis that was known to be very safe). 

 

The rates of side effects and COVID were compared between the two groups. In the beginning, the researchers set strict criteria to ensure that the new treatment was indeed safe and working and that they could not be accused of moving the goal posts if the study brought some unexpected or unwanted findings.

COVID-1 vaccine substudy in people with HIV

The same rigorous procedures applied to the HIV substudy in which I am participating. I noticed a news story about it on aidsmap.com and immediately called the clinic that conducts the study. The process, although very friendly and relaxed, was rigorous from the start and guaranteed the integrity and high ethical standards of the study I was about to sign.

Has basic information about COVID-19 vaccines been tested in people with HIV?

A nurse asked me a few questions to find out if I was eligible to participate (confirmed HIV infection, CD4 cell count above 350, undetectable viral load, HIV treatment). An appointment was then made for "a screening visit at the study clinic" with one of the medical researchers.

This went on for about an hour and a half. I did a physical exam and answered a seemingly endless set of questions about my health and medical history to make sure I was really eligible to participate in the study. 

I have HIV

The doctor then explained how the vaccine worked by using a deactivated, harmless portion of the coronavirus to stimulate an immune response. The potential side effects were also explained: the main ones are pain at the injection site and a feeling of sagging for a day or two after the injection.

The doctor also provided detailed information on why the study was temporarily halted in the summer after a man who received the experimental vaccine developed a rare nervous disorder. However, an independent panel of experts concluded that this was not due to the vaccine and gave the green light to continue the trial.

It is important to note that the doctor also emphasized that while the global health emergency caused by COVID meant that vaccines against COVID were being developed at breakneck speed, the corners were definitely not being cut and the study included all the checks and safeguards that are standard when conducting research on a new medical treatment.

In addition to saying “I have HIV” you need to declare yourself aware

I was then asked if I understood what I was told and if I had any questions and if I gave my consent to participate in the study.

After saying yes, I did blood tests to check my health. The results came back a week later and were satisfactory, allowing me to receive the first dose of the vaccine.

 

In addition to a slight pain at the injection site, I did not experience any side effects. I came back three and seven days after the injection to do blood tests to make sure the vaccine was not impacting the health of my kidneys or liver. Every day, I received an email link to an electronic diary and asked to record any side effects or symptoms, no matter how mild or unusual. I had nothing to report.

COVID-19 and coronavirus in people living with HIV

 

In the interval between my first and second doses, provisional results from the main study were published, showing that the vaccine was very safe and reduced the risk of serious COVID-related illness by 70% overall, including a 62% reduction in risk among people receiving both full doses, increasing to 90% if a half initial dose is followed for a full dose. I received an email with a summary of these findings as soon as they were announced and had the opportunity to ask more questions on my next visit to the clinic.

 

At the same time, results from studies of other vaccines were published showing 95% effectiveness. Was I disappointed that the vaccine I received had an apparently lower rate of effectiveness? Not for a second! To be honest, its effectiveness exceeded my initial expectations and I would have eagerly applied for the trial if I had known this information from the beginning. In addition, the fact that no person who received the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine that was infected with COVID needed to be hospitalized was also extremely encouraging.

I am sure that several vaccines will be needed to keep COVID under control, and the one I received will certainly have its place.

I will remain enrolled in the study for months and will be checked regularly to see if I am having any side effects and every week I do a self-test to see if I have contracted the coronavirus.

 

At all stages of the study, I was more than satisfied that the research was conducted to the highest standards, that nothing was hidden about the side effects and protection of the vaccine and that there were no omissions in its development.

The Vaccine Against COVID-19 Is Still In Labor

I am very moved when I think about my participation in the study and how lucky I am to be one of the first to know that I am fully vaccinated. Like so many others, my world turned upside down because of COVID and I spent many sleepless nights, worried about my work. A few weeks ago, I also experienced firsthand the devastating human cost of this horrible virus: my father died after contracting the disease. This adds excitement to my participation in the vaccine study and I would like to thank the scientists, doctors and all my fellow volunteers in the study for helping to develop vaccines that we can be sure are safe and working.

 

As much as I am suffering from the loss of my father, the gradual development and distribution of vaccines means that we can all genuinely expect 2021 to be happier and healthier than the year we just endured.

 

Translated on January 23, 2021 by Cláudio Souza from the original in I'm living with HIV and have had the COVID vaccine, written by Roger Pebody in January 2021

 


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