Preventing HIV Infection: The effects of community linkages, time, and money on recruiting and retaining women in intervention groups
Few studies have addressed recruitment and retention of participants in preventive interventions directed at human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and these generally have not focused on women. In this study, part of the Women in Group Support (WINGS) project, we examine the experience of three sites in recruiting 444 high-risk women for a small group intervention to reduce risky sexual behavior. The intervention included six structured sessions, followed by a continuing series of client-focused, drop-in sessions. Incentives for participants included child care, food, and transportation tokens. Attendees at each structured session also received a cash incentive of $10-$20. Forty-six percent of the women were recruited from community sources, 35% from clinics, and 19% from drug programs. Across all recruitment sources, almost a third of the women reported having had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the past year, 88%-94% reported a risky male partner (who, they believed, had sex with other partners or with sex workers, was an injecting drug user, or was HIV positive), and 10%-36% reported trading sex for money or drugs. During 18 months of recruitment, each site averaged 34 screening interviews monthly to secure 8 eligible women a month who completed baseline interviews and reported for randomization. The average number of paid sessions attended by participants was five of six (83%). Average attendance at unpaid sessions was 1 of 12 (8%). Key facilitators to recruitment and retention included linkages with community agencies and monetary incentives. Our findings suggest that researchers and community service providers need to explore alternative strategies to paying women for attending group sessions (e.g., incorporating group interventions into existing program requirements) and balance these against the costs and recruitment effectiveness.