Where are the women in HIV drug trials?
- Women represent only 11% of the participants in HIV-related clinical trials, although they comprise half the global population of those who are HIV-infected.
- When that figure is broken down, women represent 19% of participants in drug trials and 38% of vaccine trial subjects.
- This trend is not limited to HIV. It is also a problem in numerous other therapeutic areas, including heart disease, cancer, and depression.
The study, which was conducted by Dr. Mirjam Curno and his colleagues, behind this data was based on analysis of 500 studies published in the medical literature over a period of several decades. However, it only represents HIV-related studies through 2012, so more up to date information may be mssing. Nonetheless, the trend is clear. HIV studies continue to be dominated by men, despite the fact that half of those infected are women.
The implications are serious and lead to unintended gender-specific harms. Women manifest diseases differently than men, and likewise, respond differently to interventions. This in turn trickles down to practitioners, making it more difficult for them to make the best treatment decisions for their HIV-infected female patients. Much of this is most likely due to inclusion/exclusion criteria that inadvertently make female partcipation more difficult.
The takeaway here is that study design and more attention to logistics could improve participation by women in HIV-related clinical trials.