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Willingness to participate in HIV research at the end of life (EOL)

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Animal models have been vital for scientific discovery but have limitations, especially in infectious disease research. It is essential to develop a means to study these diseases in human models. We hypothesized that altruistic people would willingly participate in research near the end-of-life (EOL), for the benefit of science and to provide one last gift to society.


Two surveys were administered to 377 self-reported HIV-negative and 96 HIV-positive individuals. Hypothetical questions assessed their willingness to participate in altruistic research in the last 6 months of life, which might result in a shortened lifespan or physical discomforts. The self-reported HIV-negative group was also asked about willingness to be exposed to infectious pathogens for the sake of research.


Almost all responders expressed willingness to participate in research at the EOL, regardless of HIV-status. The majority of participants were willing to endure physical discomfort for the sake of research. 'Blood draws' was identified as the most tolerable physical discomfort (>70% in both groups). In both groups, >60% were willing to shorten their lifespans for the sake of research. A third of the self-reported HIV-negative group expressed willingness to be exposed to at least one infectious agent to participate in EOL research.


Our exploratory study demonstrates that people would welcome the opportunity to participate in altruistic research near the EOL. Such research could greatly impact the way infectious disease research is conducted. This study is limited however by its hypothetical nature. Further research is necessary to confirm this interest in those with terminal illness before any further clinical research effort at the EOL can be performed.

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