Many HIV cure studies are planned or expected. These studies often involve high or unknown risks, raising serious ethical challenges concerning (I) risk/benefit ratios, (II) informed consent, and (III) trust in investigators. Little empirical r philosophical research into these challenges is available. The proposed study will use modeling to assess objective risks from various HIV cure interventions, use surveys to assess patients'and investigators'risk ethical approval and willingness to partake in those studies, and use philosophical analysis to make recommendations on the ethical conduct of HIV cure studies. Innovation: The proposed study is innovative in several ways: (a) It will apply CEPAC modeling, which has been validated in other contexts, to investigate the new area of HIV cure interventions;(b) It will use our ready access to the large ACTG network, which has successfully supported other surveys, for a large survey of patients and clinicians on something for which no survey currently exists-ethics and willingness to participate in risky HIV cure studies;(c) It is he first large study to thoroughly examine philosophical challenges in HIV cure studies;(d) It will translate ethics insights from early phase cancer studies, other first-in-human studies, and elsewhere into practical recommendations for ethical HIV cure research, to guide investigators, funders, and IRBs. Approach: We will first compile and catalogue conceivable responses to the ethical challenge of HIV cure studies. Some responses will be immediately screened out for obvious logical, practical, or ethical flaws (""""""""Filter A""""""""). Among remaining responses, we shall assess the risks of cure interventions comprising them (Aim 1). We shall also conduct surveys to check how much HIV patients and clinicians in 34 US-based ACTG sites are willing to partake in studies that involve similar risk levels, and how morally acceptable they would find such studies (Aim 2). Combined, Aims 1 and 2 will rule out some responses to the challenge as infeasible (""""""""Filter B""""""""). Then, we shall assess the ethics of remaining responses to the challenge (""""""""Filter C"""""""") and make recommendations on how to conduct HIV cure studies ethically (Aim 3). We propose the following aims: 1. Assess through modeling the risk from HIV cure study participation for various patient populations. 2. Empirically assess HIV investigators'and HIV patients'ethical evaluation and willingness to partake in HIV cure studies involving given risk levels. 3. Use these results, along with philosophical analysis, published ethics literature, and feedback from our Board of Advisors, to form model ethical recommendations for HIV cure research.

Public Health Relevance

Research toward a cure for HIV is a high priority, but it may impose serious or unknown risks on participants to whom antiretrovirals already give safe alternatives. This raises ethical challenges surrounding (I) the risk/benefit ratios for participans, (II) their informed consent, and (III) public trust in investigators, which have not been thoroughl explored, empirically or philosophically. The proposed research will assess the objective risks from HIV cure study participation, assess HIV investigators'and HIV patients'ethical evaluation and willingness to partake in such studies, and recommend ethical ways to conduct HIV cure studies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
High Priority, Short Term Project Award (R56)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
Program Officer
Dawson, Liza
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Harvard Medical School
Other Health Professions
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Eyal, Nir (2017) Afterword: returning to philosophical foundations in research ethics. J Med Ethics 43:132-133
Kumar, Rahul (2017) Contractualist reasoning, HIV cure clinical trials, and the moral (ir)relevance of the risk/benefit ratio. J Med Ethics 43:124-127
Bromwich, Danielle; Millum, Joseph R (2017) Informed consent to HIV cure research. J Med Ethics 43:108-113
Hare, Caspar (2017) Risk and radical uncertainty in HIV research. J Med Ethics 43:87-89
Eyal, Nir (2017) The benefit/risk ratio challenge in clinical research, and the case of HIV cure: an introduction. J Med Ethics 43:65-66
Wikler, Daniel (2017) Must research benefit human subjects if it is to be permissible? J Med Ethics 43:114-117
Kuritzkes, Daniel R (2017) Why cure, why now? J Med Ethics 43:67-70
Eyal, Nir (2017) How to keep high-risk studies ethical: classifying candidate solutions. J Med Ethics 43:74-77
Brown, Regina; Evans, Nicholas Greig (2017) The social value of candidate HIV cures: actualism versus possibilism. J Med Ethics 43:118-123
Freedberg, Kenneth A; Sax, Paul E (2017) Improving on effective antiretroviral therapy: how good will a cure have to be? J Med Ethics 43:71-73

Showing the most recent 10 out of 12 publications