Continued follow-up of Phambili Phase 2b randomized HIV-1 vaccine trial participants supports increased HIV-1 acquisition among vaccinated men

BACKGROUND: The Phase 2b double-blinded, randomized Phambili/HVTN 503 trial evaluated safety and efficacy of the MRK Ad5 gag / pol / nef subtype B HIV-1 preventive vaccine vs placebo in sexually active HIV-1 seronegative participants in South Africa. Enrollment and vaccinations stopped and participants were unblinded but continued follow-up when the Step study evaluating the same vaccine in the Americas, Caribbean, and Australia was unblinded for non-efficacy. Final Phambili analyses found more HIV-1 infections amongst vaccine than placebo recipients, impelling the HVTN 503-S recall study. METHODS: HVTN 503-S sought to enroll all 695 HIV-1 uninfected Phambili participants, provide HIV testing, risk reduction counseling, physical examination, risk behavior assessment and treatment assignment recall. After adding HVTN 503-S data, HIV-1 infection hazard ratios (HR vaccine vs. placebo) were estimated by Cox models. RESULTS: Of the 695 eligible, 465 (67%) enrolled with 230 from the vaccine group and 235 from the placebo group. 38% of the 184 Phambili dropouts were enrolled. Enrollment did not differ by treatment group, gender, or baseline HSV-2. With the additional 1286 person years of 503-S follow-up, the estimated HR over Phambili and HVTN 503-S follow-up was 1.52 (95% CI 1.08-2.15, p = 0.02, 82 vaccine/54 placebo infections). The HR was significant for men (HR = 2.75, 95% CI 1.49, 5.06, p = 0.001) but not for women (HR = 1.12, 95% CI 0.73, 1.72, p = 0.62). CONCLUSION: The additional follow-up from HVTN 503-S supported the Phambili finding of increased HIV-1 acquisition among vaccinated men and strengthened the evidence of lack of vaccine effect among women. Trial Registration NCT00413725 SA National Health Research Database DOH-27-0207-1539