Venue-based recruitment of women at elevated risk for HIV: an HIV Prevention Trials Network study

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Background: The challenge of identifying and recruiting U.S. women at elevated risk for HIV acquisition impedes prevention studies and services. HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 064 was a U.S. multisite, longitudinal cohort study designed to estimate HIV incidence among women living in communities with prevalent HIV and poverty. Venue-based sampling (VBS) methodologies and participant and venue characteristics are described. Methods: Eligible women were recruited from 10 U.S. communities with prevalent HIV and poverty using VBS. Participant eligibility criteria included age 18–44 years, residing in a designated census tract/zip code, and self-report of at least one high-risk personal and/or male sexual partner characteristic associated with HIV acquisition (e.g., incarceration history). Ethnography was conducted to finalize recruitment areas and venues. Results: Eight thousand twenty-nine women were screened and 2,099 women were enrolled (88% black, median age 29 years) over 14 months. The majority of participants were recruited from outdoor venues (58%), retail spaces (18%), and social service organizations (13%). The proportion of women recruited per venue category varied by site. Most participants (73%) had both individual and partner characteristics that qualified them for the study; 14% were eligible based on partner risk only. Conclusion: VBS is a feasible and effective approach to rapidly recruit a population of women at enhanced risk for HIV in the United States. Such a recruitment approach is needed in order to engage women most at risk and requires strong community engagement.