Intertwining Biomedical Research and Public Health in HIV Microbicide Research

Public Health Ethics 3 (3):199-209 (2010)
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Abstract

Finding an effective microbicide that could substantially lower women’s risk of acquiring HIV infection is an ethical imperative. Women and girls continue to be disproportionally affected by HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Ethics guidelines for conducting preventive HIV microbicide trials call for steps that intertwine biomedical research and public health. Ethical considerations include adequate studies of the safety of microbicides, the use of placebo controls in future trials once a microbicide is shown to be effective, whether leftover microbicide from a trial that demonstrated efficacy should be made available to the public or used in the control group of a future trial, what preventive measures and treatment should be provided for trial participants during and after the research, and what constitute ‘fair benefits’ to the community or country when a trial is completed. The Global Campaign for Microbicides conducted a study of the benefits being provided to participants in microbicide trials and others, and found substantial evidence that researchers and sponsors are meeting the obligations stated in ethical guidelines. A cautionary tale of an HIV prevention trial that was prematurely halted demonstrates the need for engagement with the community where trials are carried out

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