Stakeholder engagement to inform HIV clinical trials: a systematic review of the evidence

J Int AIDS Soc. 2018 Oct;21 Suppl 7(Suppl Suppl 7):e25174. doi: 10.1002/jia2.25174.


Introduction: Stakeholder engagement is an essential component of HIV clinical trials. We define stakeholder engagement as an input by individuals or groups with an interest in HIV clinical trials to inform the design or conduct of said trials. Despite its value, stakeholder engagement to inform HIV clinical trials has not been rigorously examined. The purpose of our systematic review is to examine stakeholder engagement for HIV clinical trials and compare it to the recommendations of the UNAIDS/AVAC Good Participatory Practice (GPP) guidelines.

Methods: We used the PRISMA checklist and identified English language studies describing stakeholder engagement to inform HIV clinical trials. Four databases (PubMed, Ovid, CINAHL and Web of Science) and six journals were searched, with additional studies identified using handsearching and expert input. Two independent reviewers examined citations, abstracts and full texts. Data were extracted on country, engagement methods, stakeholder types and purpose of stakeholder engagement. Based on the GPP guidelines, we examined how frequently stakeholder engagement was conducted to inform clinical trial research question development, protocol development, recruitment, enrolment, follow-up, results and dissemination.

Results and discussion: Of the 917 citations identified, 108 studies were included in the analysis. Forty-eight studies (44.4%) described stakeholder engagement in high-income countries, thirty (27.8%) in middle-income countries and nine (8.3%) in low-income countries. Fourteen methods for stakeholder engagement were identified, including individual (e.g. interviews) and group (e.g. community advisory boards) strategies. Thirty-five types of stakeholders were engaged, with approximately half of the studies (60; 55.6%) engaging HIV-affected community stakeholders (e.g. people living with HIV, at-risk or related populations of interest). We observed greater frequency of stakeholder engagement to inform protocol development (49 studies; 45.4%) and trial recruitment (47 studies; 43.5%). Fewer studies described stakeholder engagement to inform post-trial processes related to trial results (3; 2.8%) and dissemination (11; 10.2%).

Conclusions: Our findings identify important directions for future stakeholder engagement research and suggestions for policy. Most notably, we found that stakeholder engagement was more frequently conducted to inform early stages of HIV clinical trials compared to later stages. In order to meet recommendations established in the GPP guidelines, greater stakeholder engagement across all clinical trial stages is needed.

Keywords: HIV clinical trials; advisory mechanisms; community; reporting quality; stakeholder engagement; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Community-Based Participatory Research*
  • HIV
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Health Services Research*
  • Humans
  • Research Design
  • Stakeholder Participation*