The LOC Community Engagement Program (CEP) team leads and facilitates implementation of HPTN’s community engagement approach. Our approach relies on community advisory structures such as Community Working Groups (CWGs) and site Community Advisory Boards (CABs) to represent the participant community by raising research-related issues or concerns that may impact the participants, community or study. The LOC CEP supports partnerships between communities and researchers throughout the entire research process and engages with communities at the research sites, as well as with other key internal and external stakeholders through regular tele/videoconferences, protocol team meetings, site assessment visits, study-specific trainings and workshops.
External stakeholders include advocacy groups, civil society groups such as pastors, traditional healers, tribal chiefs, and Ministry of Health/Department of Health representatives. Workshops provide an important opportunity for researchers and community representatives to exchange information and build capacity related to the Network’s scientific agenda (sub-section D). The LOC CEP staff assesses, expands and adapts the community engagement approach so that it remains culturally appropriate and relevant to the diverse communities we serve.
Community involvement forms the pillar of our Network activities where, ultimately, we are guided by and accountable to the community served. We are at our best formulating research questions from community-driven priorities in partnership with community members. Community engagement – where community is empowered to bring its values, strengths, wisdom into every aspect of the research process from conception to dissemination – makes research possible. Nearly 40 years into the HIV epidemic, the fundamentals still apply – sound, scientific evidence is real, and in community we trust.
– Melissa Turner, HPTN CWG Chair