Expected epidemiological impact of the introduction of a partially effective HIV vaccine among men who have sex with men in Australia.

Published: June 21, 2011


A trial of the ALVAC-AIDSVAX HIV vaccine was recently found to be partially effective in preventing HIV transmission among study participants in Thailand. The success of this trial means that vaccination may become a viable intervention for the prevention of HIV infection in the medium-term future. Assuming that the vaccine has similar relative protective effectiveness per exposure event for reducing transmission among men who have sex with men (MSM) in high-income settings we investigated the potential population-level impact of rolling out such a vaccine among gay men in New South Wales, Australia. Using a detailed individual-based transmission model that simulates a population of sexually active gay men it was found that one-off intervention of 60% or 30% coverage of a vaccine with characteristics like the ALVAX-AIDSVAX vaccine would likely reduce the cumulative incidence of HIV by 9.6% and 5.1%, respectively, over a 10-year period. Due to the waning of vaccine efficacy, booster vaccination could maintain this reduction in incidence over the long term. If the previously vaccinated population is given a booster vaccine, with the same protection conferred as with the initial vaccination, every 5 years or every 2 years then the cumulative incidence over 10 years for 60% coverage could be reduced by 14.4% and 22.8%, respectively. Such a weak vaccine, with boosting, may be a potential intervention strategy for the prevention of HIV infection in MSM in high-income countries if further trials show boosting to be safe, acceptable, and cost-effective. However, the moderately low population-level impact suggests that a public health strategy involving such a vaccine should be supplemented with other biomedical and educational strategies.

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