HIV paper pulled for lack of consent, errors

AIDS JournalA researcher failed to obtain proper consent from HIV patients included in his study about risky sexual behavior, according to the journal that retracted his paper.

The study, based on interviews with 154 men and women living with HIV, concluded that experiencing negative life events correlated with risky sexual behavior. But although the author claimed to have complied with the journal’s standard of consent, the journal disagreed, and retracted the paper in 2014 (we think this case is interesting enough to share with you now). What’s more, according to the journal, the paper contains errors that invalidate its conclusions.

Here’s the notice:

It has been determined that the paper entitled ‘Higher-risk sexual behaviour among HIV patients receiving antiretroviral treatment in Ibadan, Nigeria’ by Benjamin O Olley published in the African Journal of AIDS Research, 2008, volume 7, pages 71-78 contravened the fundamental ethical research standard of consent required by the journal, in contradiction to the claims of compliance made in the article. Furthermore, substantial errors in the data arising from the ethical infractions have been uncovered. These errors invalidate the findings and conclusions of the paper.

As a result, the above article published in the African Journal of AIDS Research has been retracted and neither the electronic nor print version of the article should be cited.

The 2001 article has been cited eight times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

The sole author on the paper is Benjamin O Olley, based at the University of Ibadan (UI) in Nigeria.

The article claimed that:

Potential participants were consecutively approached and told the purpose of the study, and thereafter administered a questionnaire after providing their informed consent.


The protocol was reviewed and approved by the joint [University College Hospital]/UI institutional review boards at the University of Ibadan. All participants provided written informed consent and were reimbursed for their time.

We reached out to the journal for more information on the backstory — what the other errors mentioned in the notice were, and how the issues with the paper came to light. The publishing manager for the journal told us:

The statement that appeared in the journal at the time of retraction is self-explanatory and we do not feel that it in the interests of the journal to elaborate beyond this or to publish the “backstory” to this matter.

We have reached out to Olley, and UI’s research management office for more information on the errors.

Recently, we covered a similar case, in which the authors of a retracted study on pregnant women with HIV lied about having ethics approval from the center in Nairobi, Kenya where the women were receiving care.

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One thought on “HIV paper pulled for lack of consent, errors”

  1. Such a simple matter for the journal to require proof of ethical approvals.

    It should be pro forma.

    Submit the ethical approval letter at the time of submission. Really very very simple.

    I long to see the day each paper involving human subjects has this language:

    Copies of the approval letters from [insert name of ethics committees] that were current at the time the study was conducted are available on request.

    Maybe it’s just a dream like requiring images of all unspliced unadulterated western blots or gels to be included as supplemental material.*

    It’s not an undue burden on the authors.

    *Some journals are just beginning to get it .. For example: “Science Translational Medicine may ask authors of papers returned for revision to provide additional documentation of their primary data.”

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