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Using biometric fingerprinting technology for identification of prospective HIV prevention trial participants enhancing retention in future trials: a community based study in Masaka and Kalungu

After 3 decades of the HIV epidemic, an effective HIV vaccine is still elusive. Among multiple challenges faced in discovering an effective HIV vaccine is the identification of populations with high rates of new HIV infections that can be efficiently recruited and retained for the duration the vaccine trial. Fishing communities are a potential population for future trials but their high mobility across several sites makes them less accessible for trials.

The role of biometric fingerprinting technology in research settings for identification of clinical trial participants, tracking mobile communities and for matching large databases is widely acknowledged. However such studies are very few in Africa. Under their Investigator Initiated Research, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has provided funding to MRC/UVRI’s Dr. Gershim Asiki to conduct a 12 months study aimed at using biometric fingerprinting for tracking movements of individuals within fishing communities. The fingerprints will also be used to match community level HIV testing data for estimating HIV incidence.

Speaking about the new study, Dr. Asiki said, “This study is very important because it will provide useful information for planning recruitment of fishing communities into vaccine efficacy trials and enhance strategies of tracking mobile individuals from these communities”. He expressed his gratitude to IAVI and the study volunteers. “We gratefully acknowledge this funding, the continued participation of volunteers from the fishing communities and the study teams for their enthusiasm in research”.

The study comprising of census with fingerprinting of young adults (18-30 years) will be conducted quarterly in 21 fishing villages along Lake Victoria in Masaka and Kalungu. HIV testing linked to fingerprints will also be offered to the communities. Data will be linked by fingerprint identifiers to estimate HIV incidence and retention.

About the Funding: The Investigator Initiated Research aims at providing opportunities for career development for junior investigators, to increase the development of scientific leadership capacity at partner Clinical research sites in Africa. This is to ensure that HIV vaccine-related science relevant to the communities at our research sites is conducted.

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