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Wednesday, 03 August 2016 10:32

EHPSA goes to a P-ART-Y

by Esme Mroz-Davies

When we were invited to attend the Study Advisory Group (SAG) meeting for the P-ART-Y study in Lusaka in July, I didn’t expect to start the meeting surrounded by traditional dancers. What a great way to invigorate the crowd... it definitely helped to get the P-ART-Y started!

PopART for Youth, or P-ART-Y, is a nested study, in the broader PopART trial (HPTN071) – a study to evaluate the uptake of Test and Treat interventions at community level. The P-ART-Y study is designed as a randomised comparison of combination prevention approaches in 10-24 year-olds. It’s operating in a selection of 21 communities, arranged in 3 arms, in both South Africa and Zambia.
The purpose of the SAG meeting was to take stock of the Round 2 intervention data and through interrogating this data for each intervention community, identify and plan specific youth targeted interventions to increase the uptake of HIV combination prevention packages.
The meeting brought together 40 study team representatives from both South Africa and Zambia as well as another 30 individuals representing various stakeholders: international experts, ministries from both countries, UN organisations, implementing partners and, critically, adolescents themselves. Two of EHPSA’s other adolescent research programmes - Mzantsi Wakho and Girl Power - were represented at the meeting to share expertise and ideas.
Site visits to nearby intervention sites in Chipata and Kanyama on the first morning of the meeting helped SAG participants to learn more about the contexts in which the planned youth-specific interventions will be implemented. All participants were incredibly positive about the work they witnessed in the communities: the skills of the Community HIV Care Providers (ChiP’s ) shone through on both days, particularly at the site visits!

The P-ART-Y, Photographs by Talitha Ullrich

Study Group participants walking into Kanyama compound.
Study Group participants walking into Kanyama compound.

Study Group participants walking into Kanyama compound.
Kanyama compound.
Opening ceremony.
Youth group performance.
Youth group performance.

The rest of Day 1 consisted of study orientation for the participants, with presentations from study researchers on progress, reviewing the fascinating quantitative and qualitative study data and sessions on stakeholder engagement activities and an introduction to the planned economic evaluation of the study.
On Day 2 we came together to share ideas for new site-specific youth interventions. We looked at the findings so far from each community and discussed targeted interventions - like working with parents (to tackle consent issues and improve enrolment), working with schools (to reach those in education), and shifting ChiP’s working hours to weekends so they could reach youngsters at home.
A varied and exciting range of youth-targeted interventions were discussed for implementation in Phase Two of the study. We talked about using social media, including WhatsApp and Facebook, employing adolescent / younger CHiPs to appeal to younger audiences (and to help with open conversations on sex!) and establishing youth-friendly community areas separate to clinic buildings.
The study team will now compile the proposed interventions and explore which are most likely to be successful in each community.
For me, it was the adolescents’ participation in the meeting that truly stood out. Seeing young people speak so eloquently and passionately about the challenges that face them was a real inspiration and a reminder to the SAG why we were in Lusaka. We left Lusaka with the ringing sounds and images of the moving songs and performances from the youth representing different communities of South Africa and Zambia.
Thank you to P-ART-Y for a brilliant couple of days; we wish you luck with the next phase of your study!

P-ART-Y is funded by EHPSA and managed by the lead research organisation, ZambART, in partnership with the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Imperial College, London.

Read more about EHPSA-funded adolescent research here...

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