June 6, 2019
HHS Fetal Tissue Research Ban Threatens Progress Toward Cure for HIV, Other Life-threatening Diseases
Statement from IDSA President Cynthia Sears, MD, FIDSA and HIVMA Chair W. David Hardy, MD
The Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement Wednesday that it will halt funding for research involving the use of human fetal tissue conducted within the National Institutes of Health, and review funding for research at extramural research universities with potential new restrictions, will significantly imperil our most promising strategies to develop a cure for HIV and other life-threatening diseases, while soundly undermining the administration’s stated commitment to ending the HIV epidemic.
The department’s decision discounts the life-saving value of a research model that is considered a gold standard, and that is critical to developing treatments for devastating diseases. With no validated established alternatives to replace fetal tissue research and the critical possibilities it provides to model human blood and immune system cells, the department’s policy represents a resolute rejection of science. Further, this ban sets back growing hopes for progress that studies of fetal tissue have offered against some of the greatest threats to human life and health that we face today.
With ongoing challenges to preventing and treating HIV, as well as to protecting the lives of persons living with HIV, the administration’s decision poses a profound setback to research towards a cure for HIV, and towards a vaccine to protect against the virus. It will have deeply damaging effects on the potential for improved and healthier lives for people living with HIV and other life-threatening illnesses.
As associations of more than 11,000 infectious diseases specialists, HIV providers and researchers working on the frontlines of the pandemic, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and its HIV Medicine Association urge the administration to reconsider the ban and for Congress to take all steps possible to override this damaging restriction and preserve the promise of biomedical research.