Personal Genetic Information about HIV: Research Participants' Views of Ethical, Social, and Behavioral Implications

Angie Boyce, Alexis Walker, Priya Duggal, Chloe L. Thio, Gail Geller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Personal genetic information (PGI) about HIV is produced in research and entering the clinic and direct-to-consumer market, but little consideration has been given to ethical and social issues, public perspectives, and potential behavioral implications. Objectives: This research queried the views of research participants at risk for or infected with HIV, exploring their perspectives on HIV-related PGI and its ethical, social, and behavioral implications. Methods: We used focus groups to collect rich information about participants' perspectives on the ethical, social, and behavioral implications of PGI about HIV and host genetic research. We evaluated their reactions to three different types of genetic variants: those that made them more susceptible to HIV, more protected from or resistant to HIV, or more likely to transmit HIV to others. Results: Overall, participants wanted PGI about HIV. Their reasons included a mix of personal or family health benefit and benefit to others, which varied in emphasis depending on variant type. While susceptibility variant information was seen primarily in terms of personal or family health benefit, for transmissibility and protective variant information, benefit to others emerged as a major reason for wanting PGI about HIV. Participants thought transmissibility variant information would help them prevent others from becoming infected, and protective variant information would allow them to volunteer for targeted research to help treat, cure, or prevent HIV. Possible harms were raised regarding the tendencies among some individuals to increase risky behavior with modulations in perceived risk. Potential behavioral implications were seen as significant, though complex, reflecting multifaceted risk perceptions. Conclusions: Our study adds to the evidence that participants in genetic research, across disease type, have a strong desire for PGI. For participants in research on the genetics of HIV, and potentially other infectious diseases, their desire for PGI is grounded in a perceived duty not to infect others, where they feel a moral responsibility regarding research participation and behavior change. Wider dissemination of HIV-related PGI may well increase research participation, but could have mixed effects on risk behavior. More research is needed on the implications of different variant types of PGI beyond susceptibility factors, especially protective variants or resistance factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-45
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Health Genomics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Behavior
  • Ethics
  • HIV
  • Personal genetic information
  • Risk perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Genetics(clinical)


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