Population statistics on the HIV/AIDS epidemic are daunting. During 2008 more than 2.5 million adults and children became infected with HIV and by the end of the year an estimated 33.4 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS. That year witnessed 2 million more deaths from AIDS increasing to 25 million the number of people who have died from AIDS since 1981. Despite recent improvements in access to antiretroviral treatment and the success of needle exchange and other prevention programs, the rise in HIV infections continues in these populations in the U.S. and in developing and transitional countries.
The continued development and implementation of effective interventions and policies designed to prevent, reduce and ameliorate health disparities in HIV/AIDS is dependent on the knowledge generated from interventions tested by HIV scientists. Along with the benefits of a global HIV/AIDS research agenda are ethical challenges associated with the multiple vulnerabilities of persons within these populations and the unique nature of communities in which the research is conducted.
The burdens of HIV/AIDS falls hardest on a nation’s poor, people who inject drugs, the disempowered (women, prisoners), stigmatized populations (men who have sex with men, drug users), and marginalized racial/ethnic or tribal groups. These vulnerabilities add to the complexity of ethical decision-making in HIV prevention research. Through years of experience, seasoned HIV investigators have acquired the knowledge and skills to make significant contributions to HIV ethical practices. However, early career HIV investigators have few opportunities for formal research ethics training or ethics consultation with senior colleagues.
The Fordham University HIV Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute was created to provide training and resources on research ethics for HIV investigators.