Dr. Stuart Rennie leads the Ethics Program. Dr. Rennie has a PhD in philosophy and he has devoted himself to the study of global health ethics. He co-leads two NIH-funded bioethics training programs in Africa: one serving Francophone Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Burundi) and another serving southern Africa and based at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.
At UNC, Dr. Rennie is assisted by an interdisciplinary team of leaders from within the CFAR: Dr. Gail Henderson, Director of the NC TraCS Ethics Core, and Chair, Department of Social Medicine; Dr. Eric Juengst, Director of the UNC Center for Biomedical Ethics and faculty of the Department of Social Medicine; and Dr. Amy Corneli, FHI360 Senior Scientist.
ABOUT THE ETHICS PROGRAM
Many CFAR HIV researchers and associated faculty have considerable experience dealing with the special ethical issues raised by HIV research, care and prevention activities. The Ethics Program is a CFAR collaboration, with a more independent standing within the Administrative Core, and a correspondingly broader mandate. The program focuses on four activity areas: research, service, awareness and collaboration.
• Research: empirical and conceptual research on ethical challenges related to HIV treatment, prevention, and cure
• Service: curbside ethical consultations for CFAR investigators and assistance with IRB issues
• Awareness: raising profile of ethical issues in efforts to curb HIV through talks, guest speakers, and social media
• Collaboration: developing domestic and global partnerships with institutions engaged in HIV research and its ethical implications
The Program benefits from active partnerships with two other programs at UNC. The NC TraCS Institute’s Ethics Core (directed by Prof. Henderson) focuses on ethical issues in translational biomedical research of all kinds and helps provide the Program with educational activities and outreach resources. Additionally, UNC’s Bioethics Center, directed by Prof. Eric Juengst, facilitates the Program’s empirical research and policy analysis by providing research collaborators and ethics research grant writing and research design expertise. Among its wide range of activities, the UNC Bioethics Center well placed to explore the range of ethical issues raised by HIV/AIDS in clinical, public health, and research settings.
The UNC CFAR research community activities are defined by innovative and sustained engagement with domestic and global networks of partners, in high HIV prevalence areas in the US and in countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These individual, community, and institutional partnerships are the loci for development of cutting edge, translational research addressing HIV prevention, treatment, and ultimately cure. UNC researchers are conducting PreP trials, exploring test and treat approaches, and the use of case incentives for HIV prevention. In these contexts, a broad set of ethical and relationship-based dilemmas arise and can be addressed. The CFAR ethics program is deeply engaged in research on these important challenges. For example, Dr. Rennie and Dr. Joseph Tucker (Director of UNC-China) are leading an interdisciplinary, multisite NIH-funded project on the social and ethical implications of HIV cure research (searcHIV). The UNC CFAR supported the Brocher Foundation conference on Unintended and Intended Implications of HIV Cure: A Social and Ethical Analysis in Switzerland, organized by Dr. Rennie and Dr. Tucker. In collaboration with the Pacific Institute of Research and Evaluation (PIRE) in Chapel Hill, Dr. Rennie is helping to investigate ways of responsibly including adolescents in HIV research in Kenya.
Ethical Guidance for Research
Corresponding to these developments in translational HIV research, increased attention in the professional literature to relevant ethical issues has prompted a number of new or revised ethics guidance documents. These issues are outlined in the June 2009 revision of HIV Prevention Trials Network Ethics Guidance for Research, prepared by Dr. Rennie and Prof. Jeremy Sugarman (Johns Hopkins University). This document summarizes developments and the corresponding ethical issues in different stages of research, from pre-research preparations, to implemental of protocols, to activities after data collection is completed.
The Ethics Program draws upon the experience and expertise of CFAR investigators, the CAB, and CFAR Core leaders in the Clinical and Social and Behavioral Cores, as well as other Cores when appropriate. The Ethics Program encourages the development of independently funded empirical research and policy projects that address emerging issues across all the CFAR programs, on behalf of the larger HIV research community.