Lukyamuzi now prides in being taught health living and preaches the same to the people in his newfound social worker role. To date, when a study comes up he sits on a community committee that links researchers to participants. Lukyamuzi has, in essence, become a vaccines crusader in the community.
Fourteen years after
participating in a botched trial, Fred Lukyamuzi prides in making a
contribution towards the search for an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine. Lukyamuzi, now 45, was only 29
years when he joined the study at Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe, a
move that has since changed him from being a teacher then to a social worker
At the time, the research entity
conducted this phase II trial in partnership with the International AIDS Vaccine
Initiative (IAVI) as part of a bigger international study that involved
participants in South Africa, Europe and Asia to assess the safety of an
injectable vaccine among HIV negative participants. In Uganda, 91 volunteers
participated who were picked from adults aged 18 to 40 years.
Likuamuzi didn’t accept immediately when
the proposal was made but a counsellor friend lured him with the perks that come
with participation, he would then go in for a marathon of counselling sessions
and dozens of tests including those for HIV, hepatitis, and blood grouping which
lasted up to two weeks before eventual injection.
//Cue in; “I picked interest…
Cue out…that particular time.” //
A resident of Kisubi, Lukyamuzi
had to go to the Institute for more than three years and sometimes twice every
month for a review of whether what he had been injected with was making any changes
to his body.
He didn’t know he had only been
injected with a placebo, a medicine-less liquid until 18 months after
initiation when researchers told him, he was enrolled on the arm of the study
that had no drug to establish the difference in effect with those that had
received an active vaccine. Neither did he establish who the other participants
//Cue in; “They had to…
Cue out…and the participants.”//
He remembers being heckled in the
community for being a guinea pig, owing to the widespread negative publicity
among the public. He says he initially feared that they had been injected with
the live HIV just like other vaccines are made to enable the receiver to develop
immunity. He says the researchers had to do a lot of explanations even as he
looked forward to enjoying perks like health insurance for up to three years
and having to benefit from the periodic health checks.
//Cue in; “We thought that…
Cue out…Was under worry.”//
He now prides in being taught
health living and preaches the same to the people in his newfound social
worker role. To date, when a study comes up he sits on a community committee
that links researchers to participants. Lukyamuzi has, in essence, become a vaccines
crusader in the community.
He says whenever an effective vaccine
comes, he will celebrate as a hero, although the latest attempt that had given
some hope in 2016 ended in deep disappointment this February when it’s sponsor
the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases halted it for not
being able to prevent infections among participants.
//Cue in; “I benefited at least…
Cue out… of the research.”//
Ironically he wouldn’t
participate in a COVID -19 trial even as it has affected more people in a very
short time and the World Health Organization is rallying as many countries as
possible on the African continent to join in the Global Solidarity Treatment
trial which also gives way for a search of a vaccine.
In Africa, less than five
countries have shown interest in participating and concerns of Africans being
used as guinea pigs for experimentation have often come up. Asked if he would
participate, Lukyamuzi said no.