Publication

Title: Ethical issues associated with HIV molecular epidemiology: a qualitative exploratory study using inductive analytic approaches
Authors: Mutenherwa F, Wassenaar DR, de Oliveira T.
Journal: BMC Medical Ethics,20:67, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-019-0403-9: (2019)

Journal Impact Factor (I.F.): 2.5
Number of citations (Google Scholar): 20

Abstract

Background: HIV molecular epidemiology is increasingly recognized as a vital source of information for understanding HIV transmission dynamics. Despite extensive use of these data-intensive techniques in both research and public health settings, the ethical issues associated with this science have received minimal attention. As the discipline evolves, there is reasonable concern that existing ethical and legal frameworks and standards might lag behind the rapid methodological developments in this field. This is a follow-up on our earlier work that applied a predetermined analytical framework to examine the perspectives of a sample of scientists from the fields of epidemiology, public health, virology and bioethics on key ethical issues associated with HIV molecular epidemiology in HIV network research.

Methods: Fourteen in-depth interviews were conducted with scientists from the fields of molecular epidemiology, public health, virology and bioethics. Inductive analytical approaches were applied to identify key themes that emerged from the data.

Results: Our interviewees acknowledged the potential positive impact of molecular epidemiology in the fight against HIV. However, they were concerned that HIV phylogenetics research messages may be incorrectly interpreted if not presented at the appropriate level. There was consensus that HIV phylogenetics research presents a potential risk to privacy, but the probability and magnitude of this risk was less obvious. Although participants acknowledged the social value that could be realized from the analysis of HIV genetic sequences, there was a perceived fear that the boundaries for use of HIV sequence data were not clearly defined.

Conclusions: Our findings highlight distinct ethical issues arising from HIV molecular epidemiology. As the discipline evolves and HIV sequence data become increasingly available, it is critical to ensure that ethical standards keep pace with biomedical advancements. We argue that the ethical issues raised in this study, whether real or perceived, require further conceptual and empirical examination.

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Citation: Mutenherwa F, Wassenaar DR, de Oliveira T. Ethical issues associated with HIV molecular epidemiology: a qualitative exploratory study using inductive analytic approaches BMC Medical Ethics,20:67, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-019-0403-9: (2019).