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HIV vaccine recruitment was aided by community outreach program
High-risk minorities were targeted
A clinical trial site enrolling for an HIV vaccine trial was successful in its strategies to engage and recruit from a local minority community, a new study shows.
"Our chief findings were our recruitment strategy works very well in generating interest and attention of a minority community," says Paula Frew, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine in infectious disease and in behavioral sciences and health education at the School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University in Atlanta, GA.
Part of the clinical trial site's strategy involved using a diverse community advocacy board (CAB) that participated in continuous dialogue with CT staff and investigators, Frew says.
"We had face-to-face meetings in the preparatory phase of the study," she says. "And we had lots of small group sessions and one-on-one discussions with CAB members, who were different experts in the community."
For instance, among the 15 CAB members, there was an expert on African American women in the urban context of Atlanta, and there was another person who worked with young men who have sex with men (MSM) populations, and yet another person who worked with young African American MSM, she adds.
"Having that variety of expertise on the board really helped us to understand the different segments, what their values are, and what typical behavioral correlates we see with respect to HIV risk," Frew explains. "We also learned an awful lot about how to communicate with those groups."
HIV vaccine researchers have worked hard to enroll African Americans and other minorities in their studies because of the need to find out whether the vaccine is effective for those racial and ethnic groups, Frew says.
Since African Americans have a disproportionate share of the HIV-infected population, their participation in vaccine trials is important, and the recent study shows that a targeted minority study enrollment program can be successful.
"Thirty-seven% of the people we pre-screened as eligible were from minority communities," Frew says.
The actual enrollment rate was lower among minorities than the pre-screening rate, however.1
"When we tracked their participation and actual enrollment rates, we found that number dropped to 25% of the total," Frew says. "We tracked it at different points in the process, and the majority of people that we lost were from the pre-screen to the clinical screen phase."
Minority individuals sometimes would contact clinical trial staff but then dropped out before the hand-off to clinical screening stage.1
"With white people we began with 62% eligible, and we ended up with their having 75% of the share," Frew adds. "The majority of people in the minority cohort were African American by ethnicity with a small group of non-white Hispanic/Latino/Asian Pacific Islanders in there."
The study's protocol did not address why participants dropped out of the study, she notes.
"That's another study we want to do with future populations," Frew says.
The current vaccine study's enrollment of minorities could have long-term implications, Frew notes.
"The thread we're looking at is how does this have an impact on health disparities in the long run and in our priority populations that could benefit from an HIV vaccine," she explains. "How does it impact this group's decision-making to take a vaccine in the future?"
By enrolling minorities in the clinical trial stage, sponsors build trust in the product because when consumers are presented with treatment and prevention options, they'll want to know that others in their community were involved in studies of these new treatments and prevention options, Frew adds.
Engaging a community through education and marketing during a clinical trial is a brand-building strategy, Frew says.
"Theoretically you should find that you've built a lot of interest in the study," she says. "It will get you attention and awareness of the study."