Aurum Institute is a public-benefit organisation with over 17 years’ experience in leading the response, treatment and research efforts to eradicate TB and HIV. It is located in the Klerksdorp central business district in the North Western Province of South Africa. Aurum has been conducting clinical trials since 2003, has an active community advisory board and has an onsite laboratory, pharmacy and data centre.
Aurum Institute began screening and enroling participants in March 2016. Community Engagement Officer, Kagisho Baepanye tells us more about the Aurum team’s experience to date.
How many participants have you enroled so far in ECHO?
Our site was activated on the 11th of March 2016, but our community engagement activities started way before our activation. We were able to recruit interested women ahead of initiation, and have since built on this list for participants to recruit for the study. We have since recruited 223 women and have screened more than 100, finding 38 ineligible. To date, 42 women have been enroled. Others are at various stages of the screening and enrolment process.
What have been your initial lessons learned so far?
Many of our participants have various personal commitments, and they are not able to complete screening and enrolment visits in a single day. Upon discussion with the participants, we therefore split and reschedule the visits in order to accommodate this challenge.
What have been the most surprising things about ECHO so far?
Although there have been negative perceptions about other contraceptive implants among community members, the response to the Jadelle implant has been positive following the provision of information about Jadelle during our recruitment activities. Women in the community have expressed interest in participating in the study. Also, the copper IUD is new to most potential participants, and with further education on its benefits and risks, participants have shown interest to the method. Three participants have reported being randomised to a method they did not hope for, but indicated that they still want to continue with the study.
What has been the response in the community?
The community response has been great. Participants are also telling their friends about the ECHO Study and inviting them to the site for more information. Our Community Advisory Board (CAB) has been very supportive and willing to learn more.
What are the main questions the community is asking about ECHO?
The most popular question that women ask is why they are not allowed to choose a method they would like to use. We answer this question by explaining the purpose of the study, which is to see if the risk of contracting HIV is different with different family planning methods. We say that if women choose the method for themselves, it will be difficult to answer this public health question about contraceptive methods.
We would like to thank Kagisho Baepanye (Community Liaison Officer), Haraan Makkan (Programme Manager) and the entire Aurum team for their dedication to this important study and their contributions to this article.