The collection of data is done during each visit as prescribed by the needs of the study. This is only possible by the attendance of study participants for each visit scheduled and is crucial to the success of each trial. This aspect is called study retention. The ECHO study is no different where each site participating in the trial is to maintain a 90% retention rate, this meaning 10% of total visits expected are allowable to be missed. For the ECHO trial, each participant is expected to attend 8 follow-up visits. The Klerksdorp team during the course of the trial is tasked to monitor and maintain each participant attending each of these visits, by all means allowable within the study parameters and those consented to by the participant.
Achieving a 90% retention rate is challenging where much of the success hinges on the availability and the continued will of participants to engage in the study. The ECHO Retention Event held on 08 December 2016 is an event aimed to promote study participation, and enhance staff-participant confidence and engagement. By building better relationships between staff and participants the objective is to encourage better contact with participants to remind them of visits due, and where a visit is not possible as scheduled, for alternate arrangements to be made. In developing stronger relationships between staff and participants, it is anticipated that when participants have difficulties or have other needs that they would seek the help of the site. By maintaining contact, it allows the team to manage participant study engagement better - improving study retention overall.
The Klerksdorp ECHO Retention Event held on 08 December 2016, was the first of many of such events planned to promote continuous engagement during the course of the study. Invites were sent to all participants enrolled thus far in the study, where 106 attended the event. The event was designed to celebrate the importance of women in the fight against HIV/AIDS and to thank them for their participation in the trial. The day was filled with refreshments, music, dancing and laughter.
During the days’ agenda, discussions were held with participants highlighting the importance of the study and reiterating study objectives and the need for their continued participation. Participants were asked about their needs and where future events could be improved. Overall, there were resonant responses where participants expressed their happiness to a successful retention event and their pleasure in participating in the study. While less than 50% of those currently enrolled in the study attended this event, it is anticipated that the success of this event will become known to other participants and that future events will have greater attendance.