Ethical issues in HIV remission trials

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Purpose of reviewSeveral promising experimental pathways exist for long-term control of HIV in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (HIV ‘remission’) and are now being tested in early clinical studies. These studies can be invasive and pose a host of distinctive risks to participants, as well as to nonparticipants, especially to participants’ fetuses, and sexual partners.Recent findingsEthical analyses of these studies have mainly focused on the risks to study participants. They recommend, and some investigators implement, procedures to mitigate risks for participants or to offset them with direct, indirect, and nonmedical benefits. They also suggest ways to keep participants’ consent highly voluntary and informed. Rarely do ethicists propose keeping the social value of studies high. Of these recommended responses, only the latter, rarer proposals help address the risk to nonparticipants, as would some novel ways to address that risk.SummaryHIV remission studies pose a number of ethical dilemmas. Many current investigative approaches put the participant at significant risk, but well established guidelines exist for mitigating this risk. Ethical issues that are not being fully addressed include risk to nonparticipants and the need to consider the societal value of studies, for example, their prospective impact on the global HIV burden.Video abstract

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