A recent survey of people living with HIV in the United Kingdom found that more than half would participate in a clinical study to develop a cure for HIV, despite this posing a risk to their health.
There is currently no cure for HIV. But a number of clinical trials around the world are exploring new approaches to curing the disease. There have also been a handful of highly publicised cases where individuals achieved a type of HIV “remission” following medical intervention. Participating in clinical trials that could take researchers closer to a cure for HIV comes with risks. In some cases, participants with HIV may be required to stop using antiretroviral treatment for a period of time. This may increase their viral load and could potentially lead to drug resistance. Participants will generally be required to undergo blood testing and possibly invasive procedures such as tissue biopsies. Participants may also experience side effects from the drugs or treatments being trialled.
Along with these risks, participating in an HIV cure trial offers few benefits. Most cure trials are in the early, experimental, phases. Participation will offer no therapeutic advantage and the likelihood of an available cure is still a long way away. In most countries, including the United Kingdom, there are strict guidelines on offering payment for clinical trial participation, so there are usually no financial incentives.
So why would someone choose to do this?
For many people, it is simple altruism. The UK study found a desire to help others was the primary factor motivating people’s willingness to participate in HIV cure trials.
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