Reviewing HIV-Related Research in Emerging Economies: The Role of Government Reviewing Agencies

Dev World Bioeth. 2016 Apr;16(1):4-14. doi: 10.1111/dewb.12072. Epub 2014 Nov 10.


Little research has explored the possible effects of government institutions in emerging economies on ethical reviews of multinational research. We conducted semi-structured, in-depth telephone interviews with 15 researchers, Research Ethics Committees (RECs) personnel, and a government agency member involved in multinational HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) research in emerging economies. Ministries of Health (MOH) or other government agencies often play pivotal roles as facilitators or barriers in the research ethics approval process. Government agency RECs reviewing protocols may face particular challenges, as they can lack resources, be poorly organized, have inconsistent review processes and limited expertise, and use differing definitions of national interests, including upholding national reputation and avoiding potential exploitation and stigma of the country's population. The MOH/governmental review body may be affected by power dynamics and politics in study reviews; may consider issues both related and unrelated to research ethics as understood elsewhere; and may prioritize particular diseases, treatments, or interventions over other topics/types of research. Poor communication and deeply-rooted tensions may exist between sponsor and host countries, impeding optimal interactions and reviews. Investigators must understand and plan for the potential effects of governmental agencies on multinational collaborative research, including preserving adequate time for agency review, and contacting these agencies beforehand to address issues that may arise. Better understanding of these issues can aid and advance appropriate global scientific collaboration.

Keywords: Emerging Economies; Ethics; HIV; Institutional Review Boards; Ministries of Health; Research Ethics Committees.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Developing Countries
  • Ethical Review*
  • Ethics Committees, Research*
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Government
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Qualitative Research