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VITALITY Community Engagement: last Participant Advisory Boards for 2022

As we speed towards the end of 2022, our sites in Zambia and Zimbabwe have held their last Participant Advisory Board (PAB) meetings for this year. Both teams have established great relationships with their local communities, in no small part due to the PAB members diligently performing their roles. These regular meetings are welcomed by all as they provide an important forum for the exchange of ideas, concerns, and suggestions, which are in turn shared with others in the neighbourhood.

In Lusaka, the meeting held on 5th October included study updates, discussions on the ongoing issues of ART pill burden and reasons for missed study appointments. One of the prime concerns voiced by PAB members was how to prevent unwanted pregnancies in adolescents, as they believed there were increased illegal abortions.

The members felt strongly that there was a need to go out in the community and share information on how young people can prevent unwanted pregnancies. Recognising time and geographical constraints, plans are being made to visit select locations to provide inform and dispense family planning aids using several innovative ways to engage the young people. A follow-up meeting was held (19th October) to refine plans for these activities which will take place early in 2023.

Another successful participant advisory board meeting was also held in Harare, on October 12th, where the Research Assistants (RAs) presented updated VITALITY data and reviewed the activities carried out in 2022, including the very successful treatment support day.

The PAB members also learnt about the new sub-study, VITALITY_MIND, which aims to assess neurocognitive function in children and adolescents living with HIV who are enrolled in the VITALITY trial. This helped affirm the participants and guardians belief that the VITALITY study is not only about answering a research question but that it also strives to give meaningful support to young people living with HIV (YPLWH).

Both VITALITY teams are looking forward to resuming their respective PABs in 2023. The success of these meetings is indicative of the public engagement role our teams play, not only helping to ensure the success of the study, but also in helping to improve health amongst the young people, their families and the wider community.

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