Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases (NIAID) at the NIH presented a keynote address in the PRIM&R conference titled: “Addressing the HIV/AIDS Pandemic: Ethical Challenges”. The talk highlighted five main ethical challenges regarding the HIV pandemic:
- Early drug development and the ethics of RCT;
- Access to unproven drugs, the concept of parallel track;
- Clinical trials and country specific standard therapy;
- Moral imperatives in Global Health;
- HIV vaccine.
Dr. Fauci spoke out of his personal experience and encounters, yet managed to shed the light on the most controversial issues regarding the ethics of this modern pandemic. The views he projected can be very well used to similar controversies that public health officials face with other pandemics e.g. Ebola; when the least is known yet major decisions need to be made.
The presentation opens the mind to an alternative way of thinking, especially in issues regarding the access to unproven drugs for such a needy population – given the nature of the disease- and what we might be asking for when we embark on providing vaccination before realizing the negative effects it may cause. Dr. Fauci also emphasized on the importance of including activists when trying to detangle ethical issues regarding HIV and gave practical examples of how listening to them would help elaborate on the humanitarian view of the public health role other than the scientific views that might be focused on when caught up with technicalities and research.
Shahd Osman, MBBS, MS.EPID, Public Health Institute, Khartoum, Sudan.