Challenges, successes and patterns of enrolment in the INSIGHT Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START) trial

HIV Med. 2015 Apr;16 Suppl 1(Suppl Suppl 1):14-23. doi: 10.1111/hiv.12229.


Objectives: The aim of this report is to describe the challenges, successes and patterns of enrolment in the Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START) study.

Methods: START is a collaboration of many partners with central coordination provided by the protocol team, the statistical and data management centre (SDMC), the International Network for Strategic Initiatives in Global HIV Trials (INSIGHT) network leadership, international coordinating centres and site coordinating centres. The SDMC prepared reports on study accrual, baseline characteristics and site performance that allowed monitoring of enrolment and data quality and helped to ensure the successful enrolment of this large international trial. We describe the pattern of enrolment and challenges faced during the enrolment period of the trial.

Results: An initial pilot phase began in April 2009 and established feasibility of accrual at 101 sites. In August 2010, funding approval for an expanded definitive phase led to the successful accrual of 4688 participants from 215 sites in 35 countries by December 2013. Challenges to accrual included regulatory delays (e.g. national/local ethics approval and drug importation approval) and logistical obstacles (e.g. execution of contracts with pharmaceutical companies, setting up of a central drug repository and translation of participant materials). The personal engagement of investigators, strong central study coordination, and frequent and transparent communication with site investigators, community members and participants were key contributing factors to this success.

Conclusions: Accrual into START was completed in a timely fashion despite multiple challenges. This success was attributable to the efforts of site investigators committed to maintaining study equipoise, transparent and responsive study coordination, and community involvement in problem-solving.

Trial registration: NCT00867048.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; START trial; antiretroviral therapy initiation; enrolment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active / methods*
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents

Associated data