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Background: Biomedical HIV cure research is advancing in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Little is known, however, about perceptions and acceptability of various HIV cure research strategies or willingness to participate in studies to test these strategies among people living with HIV.
Methods: We undertook focus group discussions with people living with HIV at four (4) Martin Delaney collaboratory HIV cure clinical research sites in the United States: Seattle, WA; Los Angeles, CA; San Diego, CA and Durham, NC. We conducted 10 focus group discussions January - June 2016 and subsequent thematic analysis.
Results: 76 individuals (60.5% males, 35.5% females, 2.6% transgendered individuals, 1.3% non-binary/queer) participated. The sample was ethnically diverse (40.8% Caucasian/White, 39.5% African American/Black, 9.2% Hispanic/Hispanic descent, 10.5% other). Main narratives centered on meanings of HIV cure (e.g. not having to take medications and not being able to infect sexual partners) and deterrents and motivators to participation in HIV cure research. There was a preference for a sterilizing cure (eradication) compared to a functional cure (remission) across all 4 sites. Participants expressed anxiety with interrupting HIV medication in the context of HIV cure research and preferred knowing that they were controlling the virus at all times. Further, there were concerns about potential clinical side effects of HIV cure strategies. Participants who experienced several HIV treatment regimens to become undetectable appeared less willing to take part in risky cure studies. One thread that emerged was the impact of stigma, and the belief that a sterilizing cure would be the only way to eradicate stigma. Additional narratives focused on expectations of HIV cure biomedical investigators, recruitment of special populations - including women, and practical issues involved in the conduct of HIV cure studies. Some anxieties were expressed around being cured, including losing disability insurance (financial burden). The need for better education around HIV cure research emerged as a strong theme.
Conclusions: This community participatory project begins to fill a gap around perceptions of HIV cure research among people living with HIV. Qualitative results can help inform a patient-centered HIV cure research agenda.

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