June 30, 2012
Implementation of the Good Participatory Practice (GPP) guidelines continues to move forward in Thailand. The Thai NGO Coalition on AIDS led trainings for research organizations including the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center, the Research Institute for Health Sciences from Chiang Mai University and the Armed Forces Research Institute for Medical Sciences. These groups represent key networks in the HIV prevention research field including the HPTN, ACTG, IMPAACT and MTN.
Thailand has a long history of community engagement in HIV research. The GPP trainings, however, highlight some key challenges and issues not unlike those experienced in other areas of the world. One ongoing need in Thailand and around the world is to map out processes for promoting and institutionalizing GPP at national levels (e.g. via official adopting by institutional review boards). There is also a gap in terms of systems for monitoring and evaluating GPP implementation where it is being implemented. Other enduring challenges involve dependence on community advisory boards as the primary mechanism for stakeholder engagement (GPP suggests using multiple channels to reach impacted communities), and the limited budgets available for stakeholder engagement.
Open, frank discussion about these issues between community and researchers represents a true shift in practice in Thailand, and key researchers are becoming both more accepting of full GPP implementation and aware of its positive impact on the research process. For instance, the director of the AIDS Research Center at the Thai Red Cross, stayed and engaged in almost the full day of the training, even though he had only committed to coming and opening the session.
Moving forward, potential plans include additional trainings for new protocol/trial teams, piloting of GPP in a “test and treat” study in MSM and follow-on studies from RV 144, and continued sharing of lessons and practices between institutions.