Comparison of retention in observational cohorts and nested simulated HIV vaccine efficacy trials in the key populations in Uganda

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2020 Feb 12;20(1):32. doi: 10.1186/s12874-020-00920-4.


Background: Outcomes in observational studies may not best estimate those expected in the HIV vaccine efficacy trials. We compared retention in Simulated HIV Vaccine Efficacy Trials (SiVETs) and observational cohorts drawn from two key populations in Uganda.

Methods: Two SiVETs were nested within two observational cohorts, one in Fisherfolk (FF) and another one in Female Sex Workers (FSW). Adult participants in each observational cohort were screened for enrolment into SiVETs. Those screened-out or not screened continued participation in the observational (non-SiVET) cohorts. SiVET participants were administered a licensed hepatitis B vaccine in a schedule that mimicked an actual HIV vaccine efficacy trial. Both cohorts were followed for 12 months and retention was assessed through dropout, defined as lost to follow up, being uncontactable, refusal to continue or missing the last study clinic visit. Dropout rates were compared using Poisson models giving rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals (95%CI).

Results: Out of 1525 participants (565 FF and 960 FSW), 572 (38%) were enrolled into SiVETs (282-FF and 290-FSW), and 953 (62%) remained in the non-SiVET cohorts. Overall, 326 (101 SiVET, 225 non-SiVET) dropped out in 1260 Person Years of Observation (PYO), a dropout rate of 25.9 /100 PYO (95%CI: 23.2-28.8); fewer dropped out in the SiVET cohorts (18.4, 95% CI: 15.1-22.4) than in the non-SiVET cohorts (31.6, 95% CI: 27.8-36.1), rate ratio (RR) =0.58, 95% CI: 0.46-0.73. In all cohorts, the dropout was more marked in FSW than in FF population. Duration lived in community was associated with dropout in both SiVETs and religion in both non-SiVET cohorts.

Conclusion: The rate of dropout was lower in SiVET compared to non-SiVET cohort. Though the difference in dropout between SiVET and non-SiVET was generally similar, the actual dropout rates were higher in the FSW population. Conduct of SiVETs in these key populations could mean that designing HIV Vaccine Efficacy Trials will benefit from lower dropout rate shown in SiVET than non-SiVET observational cohort.

Keywords: Retention dropout observational cohorts vaccine trials key-populations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fisheries / statistics & numerical data*
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Sex Workers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Uganda / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • AIDS Vaccines