ZAMBART researchers get ready for mammoth HIV prevention study – HPTN 071
HPTN 071, also known as the Population Effects of Antiretroviral Therapy to Reduce HIV Transmission (PopART) study under the Zambia AIDS Related Tuberculosis Project (ZAMBART) held a series of training workshops in Lusaka, Ndola and Livingstone recently.
HPTN 071 trainers from the US-based HIV Prevention Trials Network, Desmond Tutu TB Center at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and ZAMBART respectively were involved in the training on how to implement specifically designed tools (Winpad) and software application (eCaselink) to be used by the Population Cohort arm of the study during the trial. The training also included protocol training, GCP, Phlebotomy, Handling and Transportation of Blood Samples.
Workshop participants included research nurses, community mobilizers, research assistants, district administrators, motor bike couriers and drivers. Addressing the first group of trainees HPTN 071 Site Principal Investigator in Zambia and ZAMBART Project Coordinator Dr. Helen Ayles, said PopART is different, exciting and a high profile study because it is the first time that anyone had come up with a strategy to offer a combined prevention intervention package to combat the HIV pandemic. “The world is watching and eagerly anticipating the results of what the study will accomplish and hopefully contribute positively towards the fight against the virus,” said Dr. Ayles.
FHI 360 Scientist Dr. Ayana Moore, encouraged participants to be enthusiastic as they were part of an interesting study that could break new ground in preventing HIV from spreading further in Zambia and beyond. Meanwhile, PopART Population Cohort Manager Sandra Simbeza urged the trainees to be zealous in their work in order for the study to yield the intended results, and research nurse, Christine Imasiku, expressed optimism that the study would be a success.
HPTN 071/ PopART is a four-year cluster randomised trial that will determine the impact of a package of HIV prevention interventions on community-level HIV incidence. These include: universal household voluntary HIV counselling and testing, linkage of HIV positive individuals to care and early initiation of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) for all those testing HIV-positive, Other interventions include: TB screening, treatment for |sexually transmitted Infections, provision of condoms, and linkage of HIV negative men to voluntary medical male circumcision services, and strengthening and promoting Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT).
Scientists will be able to compare the impact on HIV incidence at population level of providing ART to HIV positive individuals regardless of their CD4 count and if a combination of HIV treatment will better prevent the spread the HIV than standard methods currently offered. The study will also help researchers determine if house-to-house voluntary universal testing and treatment can work on a large community scale, and whether it is possible and affordable to deliver.
The enumeration of study participants will be done by the research assistants in trial communities by enrolling and following a random sample of over 2500 adults aged 18 to 44 years over a period of 3 years. 21 communities in Zambia and South Africa have been selected for the rigorous study, which is the most intensive study into HIV prevention ever conducted in Southern Africa.