This post was written by a participant who has completed a trial here at St Mary’s. This is their account of why they took part, how they found the experience and what they got out of it.
To me, there was absolutely no reason not to get involved in this trial.
A retweet of a Help Make History recruitment ad jumped out at me on my Twitter feed, and before I’d even read further than their ‘about me’ blurb, I was ready to sign up for the trial. Of course, the process wasn’t nearly that simple, but, to be honest, my motivations behind taking part in this particular trial really were.
You know how you always hear those generic motivational clichés from people who offer their time and services to charities or social initiatives? They’re generally the volunteers who tell you how the cause is ‘close to my [their] heart’, or that they ‘want to make a difference’. And, even though I’m now hiding behind an anonymous blog post, you’re still going to hear the clichés one more time (sorry!) from me. This trial really does represent a cause that is incredibly important to me; I have long supported charities that offer support for those living with HIV, and I have volunteered for a number of not-for-profit organisations and initiatives that aim to raise awareness for HIV by encouraging people to get tested and know their status. This trial, however, presented itself as an opportunity to offer more to the cause, to bring something more personal than my time to the fight against HIV: it presented itself as an opportunity to volunteer ‘myself’ to this fight. Because really, whilst there are absolutely brilliant minds dedicated to this research, the only chance these great minds have of actually developing a vaccine against HIV is with the help of volunteers.
Of course, in this case, the financial incentive was there, but would I have taken part in the trial if there hadn’t been a financial incentive? Absolutely. Yes.
I don’t have enough praise for the research nurses and recruitment staff that I dealt with during the trial. Not only were they professional and thorough, they were also relatable and friendly. I’d initially had this nagging fear in my head, that, once recruited, I would cease to be nothing more than a patient number – a series of digits, test results and charts in a file – which is quite a daunting prospect when you’re not entirely sure how your body is going to respond to the vaccine. This could not have been further from the reality of the trial. I felt safe, informed and valued at every stage of the trial. Each visit seemed to feel more comfortable and routine than the last and the trial was a genuinely enjoyable, interesting experience.
I received my last vaccine around a month ago, and I experienced no noticeable side effects at any point during the trial. Certain test results did come back slightly raised, but the follow-up communication and visits that were required were handled so professionally that at no point did I feel there was any cause for concern, feeling quite comfortable in the capable hands of the research team involved.
My active, physical role in the trial might be over, but my contribution to it isn’t – and it is this that I find to be incredibly fulfilling. The fight against HIV is on going, and if I can have contributed something meaningful to this fight – either directly or indirectly – then my participation in this trial is worth far more to me than any financial reward.