By: Blossom Makhubalo and Thandiwe Papalagae, Klerksdorp CRS, Klerksdorp, South Africa
The launch event for the Imbokodo study drew 123 young women, and was held at the Knowledge Centre in Kanana on the 29th of January 2019. The area where the event was held is one of our high transmission areas, which is characterised by high rates of unemployment, poverty, gender-based violence and gangsterism.
The purpose of the event was to make the community aware that HVTN 705/HPX2008 Imbokodo Study is being conducted at our trial site, and to get input from the community on questions they may have about the study and how we are conducting it. Our CRS Principal Investigator, Dr. Craig Innes, addressed the community members who attended the event and provided information on the trial.
The community members in attendance felt valued, and not only engaged when there is a need for recruitment. The women and their male partners who accompanied them to the event were empowered as well. It was great to see the men interested in issues that involve women.
We had stakeholders from the Department of Health, The Matlosana Youth Centre, the Crime Prevention Unit from Mahikeng, the local Pastor from Kanana, and the Ward Councillor. The site has maintained good stakeholder relationships, and strengthening of stakeholder relations is an ongoing process. Multi-sectoral stakeholder collaboration is key in how we work with our communities and stakeholders.
Dr. Innes focused his presentation on giving an overview of the trial. The community members showed interest and they were interacting. Dr. Innes addressed all the questions that were raised by community members. Two of our CAB members attended the event and explained the role of the CAB to the community.
Questions that were asked included:
- Why is the study not taking older women?
- How will the researchers know that the vaccine is working? Do you have to sleep with a person living with HIV?
- Are people paid for being in the study?
- Can the person who received the vaccine transmit it to partner?
The community members also asked health-related questions about stroke, asthma, cancer and diabetes. Mr. George Mokhutswane, a professional nurse from the Matlosana Youth Centre, addressed these questions raised by the community. We also had entertainment for the attendees with a DJ and dancers.
The take-home message was, “Moving together toward an HIV/AIDS-free South Africa: only by working together can we achieve this.”
Blossom Makhubalo is the Community Engagement Manager and Thandiwe Papalagae is the Recruitment and Retention Team Leader at the Klerksdorp CRS, in Klerksdorp, South Africa.