Considerations for designing and implementing combination HIV cure trials: findings from a qualitative in-depth interview study in the United States

AIDS Res Ther. 2021 Oct 18;18(1):75. doi: 10.1186/s12981-021-00401-8.


Background: An increasing number of HIV cure trials involve combining multiple potentially curative interventions. Until now, considerations for designing and implementing complex combination HIV cure trials have not been thoroughly considered.

Methods: We used a purposive method to select key informants for our study. Informants included biomedical HIV cure researchers, regulators, policy makers, bioethicists, and community members. We used in-depth interviews to generate ethical and practical considerations to guide the design and implementation of combination HIV cure research. We analyzed the qualitative data using conventional content analysis focused on inductive reasoning.

Results: We interviewed 11 biomedical researchers, 4 community members, 2 regulators, 1 policy researcher, and 1 bioethicist. Informants generated considerations for designing and implementing combination interventions towards an HIV cure, focused on ethical aspects, as well as considerations to guide trial design, benefit/risk determinations, regulatory requirements, prioritization and sequencing and timing of interventions, among others. Informants also provided considerations related to combining specific HIV cure research modalities, such as broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs), cell and gene modification products, latency-reversing agents and immune-based interventions. Finally, informants provided suggestions to ensure meaningful therapeutic improvements over standard antiretroviral therapy, overcome challenges of designing combination approaches, and engage communities around combination HIV cure research.

Conclusion: The increasing number of combination HIV cure trials brings with them a host of ethical and practical challenges. We hope our paper will inform meaningful stakeholder dialogue around the use of combinatorial HIV cure research approaches. To protect the public trust in HIV cure research, considerations should be periodically revisited and updated with key stakeholder input as the science continues to advance.

Keywords: Combination approaches; Empirical ethics research; HIV; HIV cure research; People living with HIV.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research Personnel
  • United States