The research assistant will work with the principal investigator Nir Eyal and collaborators from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Duke University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital as well as the ACTG HIV trial site network. The multidisciplinary team uses methods of clinical epidemiology, economics, simulation modeling, and normative theory to predict risks in early-phase HIV cure studies, assess how much likely candidates for participation understand those risks, and make ethical recommendations on the conduct of HIV cure studies.
The research assistant will help prepare, conduct and analyze a pilot survey expected to take place in a US site of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG). The survey will assess perceptions of HIV cure and of cure study risks. The research assistant will also promote other research and grant-related activities, through literature reviews and assistance in the preparation of abstract, poster, and manuscripts for publication, grant applications, a simple project website (using Harvard’s user-friendly OpenScholar platform), and slides for lectures and seminars. The research assistant will be in touch with top researchers in HIV cure, medical decision making, and ethics from around the country, to facilitate our meetings, a workshop, and regular conversations to plan the research and debate ethical issues around early-phase HIV cure studies.
For years, mainstream and extremist organizations have waged campaigns against the use of animals. While PETA successfully deploys propaganda featuring provocative models in sexually explicit positions to denounce the use of animals for food, clothing and experimentation, other groups, such as the Animal Liberation Brigade, engage in violent (some would say terroristic) actions to disrupt animal research and scare off scientists from lines of inquiry for which the use of animal models is the state of the art.
Part of the philosophy of the anti-animal research groups is a belief in moral equivalency among species. PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk once famously said, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” Does she propose we allow people to suffer with treatable diseases because non-animal models for testing have not yet been developed? Apparently so. Newkirk also has gone on the record to say, “Even if animal tests produced a cure for AIDS, we’d be against it.” This view is out of step with the majority of Americans, who – according to the latest Gallup poll– support animal research.
Among those who regulate and support animal research, there is a very strong commitment to animal welfare. The “animal welfare” perspective contrasts with the “animal rights” view. The animal rightists want to end animal use, including research (and also eating meat, hunting, zoos, police dogs and entertainment), because they see it as inherently indefensible. Animal welfarists, on the other hand, believe animals can be used humanely, under strict rules that seek to prevent unnecessary pain and distress in research animals. They acknowledging that the animals’ lives are worthy of respect, but do not ascribe the moral status of personhood to them. The US government requires scientists to assume anything that could cause pain or distress in a human also would be painful for an animal, and they are compelled to provide analgesia and anesthesia accordingly.