HIV cure research requires interrogating latent HIV reservoirs in deep tissues, which necessitates autopsies to avoid risks to participants. An HIV autopsy biobank would facilitate this research, but such research raises ethical issues and requires participant engagement. This study explores the willingness to participate in HIV cure research at the end of life. Participants include Canadians with HIV [people with HIV (PWHIV)] aged 55 years or older. Following a mixed-method study design, all participants completed a phone or online survey, and a subset of participants participated in in-depth phone or videoconference interviews. We produced descriptive statistics of quantitative data and a thematic analysis of qualitative data. Barriers and facilitators were categorized under domains of the Theoretical Domains Framework. From April 2020 to August 2021, 37 participants completed the survey (mean age = 69.9 years old; mean duration of HIV infection = 28.5 years), including 15 interviewed participants. About three quarters of participants indicated being willing to participate in hypothetical medical studies toward the end of life (n = 30; 81.1%), in HIV biobanking (n = 30; 81.1%), and in a research autopsy (n = 28; 75.7%) to advance HIV cure research, mainly for altruistic benefits. The main perceived risks had to do with physical pain and confidentiality. Barriers and facilitators were distributed across five domains: social/professional role and identity, environmental context and resources, social influences, beliefs about consequences, and capabilities. Participants wanted more information about study objectives and procedures, possible accommodations with their last will, and rationale for studies or financial interests funding studies. Our results indicate that older PWHIV would be willing to participate in HIV cure research toward the end of life, HIV biobanking, and research autopsy. However, a dialogue should be initiated to inform participants thoroughly about HIV cure studies, address concerns, and accommodate their needs and preferences. Additional work is required, likely through increased community engagement, to address educational needs.
Keywords: HIV; HIV cure; end-of-life research; mixed-methods research; research autopsy.