25 May 2020

My Guinea Pig Experience

Almost 3 years ago, I enrolled in the HPTN 083 study at George Washington University. The HPTN 083 study conducted research on the safety of a new form of PreP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), an HIV prevention drug, called “Cabotegravir” (CAB LA). During this study, I as a participant, contributed to the study by attending study visits every 4-6 weeks. The study is broken down into 4 stages and the visits into 2 parts. One visit is the Injection visit, the following is the Safety visit. 

At the beginning of the study, your first visit is to gather personal and medical information to ensure that you are a qualified candidate for the study. Once this is completed, you move onto start receiving and taking the study drugs. The study calls for a pill form and injection form. The pill form is to be taken daily and you receive the injection form every 6-8 weeks during your visit. Within 1-2 weeks following each injection, you’ll have your safety visit where the Research workers will check the injection site for any signs of abnormality.  

HPTN 083 participants receive a placebo and an active drug, though participants do not know during the study which they are receiving through either form, pill or injection. Only the head doctors know who’s receiving which drug. This information is not revealed until the end of the study once conclusive results have been shown. As a participant of the study, your participation is completely voluntary and anonymous, unless you personally choose to disclose your participation at your own leisure. 

During each visit, you partake in a series of questionnaires regarding the study drug(s) and your participation in the study. While being apart of the study, there are some benefits. The study monitors your complete body function (i.e. HIV/STI status, Kidney function, blood pressure trends, etc.) and if anything abnormal shows, the study professionals, at your discretion, will refer you to the necessary resources. You also receive a stipend at each visit compensating your participation in the study, which is completely voluntary.

I was informed on my last safety visit that the study has found that the injectable form of Cabotegravir (CAB LA) is safe and effective as a form of PreP for preventing HIV. Although the study is not at its final stage, soon participants will find out which medication they are receiving. Further study information is to come. 

My participation went a little differently in the later stages of the study. Being that I am donating a kidney on my life partner’s behalf, the team of doctors at George Washington and Georgetown University Hospitals met and decided that it was best for me to discontinue taking the daily pill form of the study drug. This was decided based upon the unknown side effects the drug may have on one’s kidneys, though they still felt it was safe to continue receiving the injection form. My donor status allowed for another aspect of the study to open as GW placed more focus on my kidney function and coordinated results with the Georgetown Transplant team. The teams also sought other forms of PreP that would be safer for organ donors that still want to take daily PreP. 

My participation in HPTN 083 was driven  solely by me. I have a number of friends and associates, as well as my life partner, who are HIV+ and I have always been active in educating myself on HIV, STIs and the prevention of. Receiving this exciting information further encourages me to continue to do my part in finding preventative, protective and even cures for our people. My experience in this study has been extremely easy, manageable and fulfilling. 

Thank you to the professional staff & doctors for your detailed efforts in finding safer prevention measures for our community. 

Humbly Gracious,

James B. Wilson

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