HIV vaccine trial participation in south Africa - an ethical assessment

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 27 (2):197 – 215 (2002)
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Abstract

Trial participation in the proposed HIV Vaccine Trials in South Africa is discussed in the context of the ethical tension that exists between international ethical research standards and local standards of care and cultural norms in the Third World. The important concepts of informed consent, risk-benefit ratio and fair treatment of trial participants are interpreted differently in traditional, rural African communities, where a moderate form of communitarianism referred to as "Ubuntu" or "communalism" is still prevalent. Research is an altruistic endeavor that benefits communities and societies as a result of risks taken by individuals. Universal ethical guidelines that are highly individualistic and fail to emphasize communalism may represent serious problems for the sort of research needed in Africa today.

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