Adolescent females in Zimbabwe are at high risk for HIV acquisition. Shaping the Health of Adolescents in Zimbabwe (SHAZ!) was a randomized controlled trial of a combined intervention package including life-skills and health education, vocational training, micro-grants and social supports compared to life-skills and health education alone. SHAZ! was originally envisioned as a larger effectiveness trial, however, the intervention was scaled back due to contextual and economic conditions in the country at the time. SHAZ! enrolled 315 participants randomly assigned to study arm within blocks of 50 participants (158 intervention and 157 control). The intervention arm participants showed statistically significant differences from the control arm participants for several outcomes during the two years of follow up including; reduced food insecurity [IOR = 0.83 vs. COR = 0.68, p-0.02], and having their own income [IOR = 2.05 vs. COR = 1.67, p = 0.02]. Additionally, within the Intervention arm there was a lower risk of transactional sex [IOR = 0.64, 95% CI (0.50, 0.83)], and a higher likelihood of using a condom with their current partner [IOR = 1.79, 95% CI (1.23, 2.62)] over time compared to baseline. There was also evidence of fewer unintended pregnancies among intervention participants [HR = 0.61, 95% CI (0.37, 1.01)], although this relationship achieved only marginal statistical significance. Several important challenges in this study included the coordination with vocational training programs, the political and economic instability of the area at the time of the study, and the difficulty in creating a true standard of care control arm. Overall the results of the SHAZ! study suggest important potential for HIV prevention intervention packages that include vocational training and micro-grants, and lessons for further economic livelihoods interventions with adolescent females. Further work is needed to refine the intervention model, and test the impact of the intervention at scale on biological outcomes.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02034214.