Partnerships between the communities that participate in research and the research institutions that work in their midst are vital to the success of scientific, educational and advocacy activities central to HIV-prevention research. Community-advisory mechanisms—which include community advisory boards (CABs) and similar entities, such as gender advisory boards or advisory committees on men who have sex with men (MSM)—act as a critical bridge between researchers and such communities.
Advisory bodies can help explain HIV vaccine research and development to members of the communities where clinical research may take place, and ensure that community concerns and other considerations unique to the local context are conveyed to those conducting that research. As one CAB member eloquently expressed it, “The CAB is the eyes of the community watching the research and the ears of the researchers listening to the community."
Community participation helps ensure that clinical research is conducted ethically and sustainably. IAVI and its partners engage communities in HIV vaccine research in accordance with international standards of Good Participatory Practices (GPP). To help its partners adhere to these high standards, IAVI provides training to staff at collaborating research centers. This includes training on GPP evaluation and gender-related issues to promote greater participation in such research.
IAVI’s community-education programs are built around IAVI’s vaccine literacy curriculum. IAVI’s VaxLit Tooklit provides information about HIV vaccine research in terms accessible to nonscientists and so helps potential volunteers make informed decisions about participation in research, buttresses community support for local research efforts and prepares the ground for national advocacy to ensure AIDS vaccine development remains a priority of the host country.