CATALYST HIV Research Study Launched In Zimbabwe

THE Maximizing Options to Advance Informed Choice for HIV Prevention (MOSAIC) consortium, has launched CATALYST, a research study that evaluates delivery of HIV prevention methods in women and girls at greater risk oF new HIV infections.

By Michael Gwarisa

The three-year, multi-country implementation study builds on decades of research related to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention and is aimed at assessing the delivery of multiple PrEP methods to women in real-world settings in five African countries, including Zimbabwe.

The study will deliver choice among three PrEP methods — daily pills, a vaginal ring replaced monthly or a long-acting injection given every two months — to an estimated 11,000 participants without HIV across 28 public health service delivery sites supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Research (PEPFAR) in Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

CATALYST is the largest study of its kind and represents a locally led, youth-focused implementation project in which participants will have the opportunity to be among the first to learn about and try new PrEP methods,” says Dr. Kristine Torjesen, director of science facilitation at FHI 360.

“They will also make their voices heard in how PrEP is rolled out in their communities.”

In Zimbabwe, Pangaea Zimbabwe AIDS Trust (PZAT), will coordinate with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) to offer services and counsel participants, sharing detailed information about each PrEP method and supporting participants in choosing the best method for their lifestyle.

Speaking on the development, CATALYST Co-Investigator, Dr. Emily Gwavava said, “PZAT is excited to provide additional PrEP methods that are discreet and empower women, particularly AGYW, in Zimbabwe to protect themselves against HIV. The right mix of health facilities – from urban to rural, and including public and private, will help to test the feasibility of providing informed PrEP choice in different settings across 6 sites and help inform national scale-up of PrEP choice.”

The study will be conducted in two stages. Two currently available PrEP methods — tenofovir-based oral pills and the dapivirine ring (PrEP ring) — will be offered in Stage I. Stage II will include an injectable method, cabotegravir long-acting (CAB-LA) for PrEP, once it is approved by the regulatory authority in each country.

Participants will be followed for one to three years to collect information about how they choose, use, switch between and like the offered PrEP methods. The results of the study will provide evidence that can be used to help transform the HIV prevention landscape and inform the future scale up and sustainability of HIV prevention options.

Meanwhile, following the launch of the CATALYST Study, the PZAT MOSAIC team has since conducted a YAB (Youth Advisory Board) and CAB (Community Advisory Board) training to equip them with enough information and knowledge about the Study since they are the ones that work directly with research teams to facilitate community input by providing feedback and advice on all aspects of the study process and provide a voice to the concerns and interests of their respective respective communities.

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