There is a need for carefully controlled and scientifically rigorous research studies of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The morbidity and mortality associated with AIDS patients and the public health concerns for control of this epidemic have distorted the usual process of research. The Institutional Review Board at Boston City Hospital is suggested as an appropriate mechanism for clarifying the distinctions between research and innovative therapies and for assuring the protection of this vulnerable population of research subjects. This article addresses ethical concerns relating to the time frame of research, drug and antibody testing, vaccine trials, and questions of justice in micro- or macro-allocation. The unique problems in AIDS research with informed consent and confidentiality are discussed. Finally, the need is outlined for careful balancing of individual welfare and rights and those of society.



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