New research from Kenya on gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.
What do men who have sex with men in Kenya think about participating in HIV prevention research, such as a vaccine trial? Doshi and colleagues used a social network-based approach to conduct in-depth interviews with 70 gay men and other men who have sex with men. Here is what some of them said:
“He [the potential study participant] keeps hearing there is a research [study] that is starting, that there is money – one thousand or two, three thousand – he will run for the money…because it is someone’s life you have to be sure of what is going on…. You run for the better option because research comes in every type and researchers are everywhere in town.”
“Ok, you know most of the research coming to Kenya starts with MSM. Those are the ones that are tested on first so if there are side effects, those will be the first victims”
“It will benefit many of us…on my side…because sometimes I’m drunk I go out and meet people and they tell me they do not use condom…or… I’m drunk, I don’t know myself and I have already come to the bed with someone. Even I don’t know what he will do to me, if he will do me with a condom or if he will do me without a condom. Now the [HIV] vaccine…will be beneficial to me and the whole community”
This is a rich paper, giving insights into the reasons that people do or do not want to participate in vaccine trials. It raises plenty of ethical questions about the balance between self-interest, altruism, coercion and consent. It is encouraging that on the whole most participants saw the potential benefits to the wider community and would consider volunteering their time despite the associated risks. Their perceptions were also coloured by previous research studies and how researchers had met their responsibilities for the care and well-being of their participants. A good advertisement for the UNAIDS-AVAC Good Participatory Practice guidance!