Recruitment of HIV-Positive Women in Research: Discussing Barriers, Facilitators, and Research Personnel’s Knowledge

Mona R Loutfy*, 1, 2, Logan Kennedy V1, Saira Mohammed 1, Wei Wu 1, Marvelous Muchenje 3, Khatundi Masinde 1, Khaled Salam 4, Lena Soje 5, Sandra Gregorovich 6, Wangari Tharao 3
1 Women’s College Research Institute, Women’s College Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2 Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
3 Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
4 AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
5 Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
6 Faculty of Medicine, McMaster University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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© Loutfy et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Women’s College Research Institute, Women’s College Hospital, 790 Bay Street, Room 736, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1N8 Canada; Tel: 416-351-3732, Ext. 2324; Fax: 416-351-3746; E-mail:


Background :

Women have historically been under-represented in HIV research, partly due to ineffective recruitment strategies.

Objective :

To improve the existing understanding of recruitment for HIV-positive women based on a province-wide cross-sectional study.

Methods :

A survey was emailed to all site coordinators who recruited participants in a study involving 490 HIV-positive women living in Ontario, Canada. The survey consisted of questions regarding the important recruitment barriers and successes. Quantitative data were then contextualized within extensive knowledge from research personnel and team members.

Results :

Completed surveys were received from (89%) site coordinators (34/38) and 98% (31/34) were women. The highest ranked recruitment barriers identified were: sensitivity of the research topic (59%), time/availability constraints (59%), language barriers (53%), HIV disclosure/stigma issues (47%), lack of trust of research personnel (41%), fear of research (41%) and inaccessibility to child care and transportation (41%). The respondents felt that the most important personal attributes for recruitment were research personnel who were respectful (97%), skilled (91%), flexible (88%) and empathetic (88%) and had good communication skills (88%). The most successful recruitment strategies identified were: developing a strong rapport (88%) that was facilitated by an empathetic relationship (100%), acknowledging the sensitive nature of the research topic (94%), providing cash financial compensation (88%), and developing recruitment strategies unique to women (88%).

Conclusion :

There are differences in the approaches needed for the recruitment of HIV-positive women in research. For successful recruitment of HIV-positive women, a strong rapport between the research personnel and study participants is important. This rapport is facilitated by having study personnel who are respectful, trustworthy, empathetic, and flexible. Population-specific recruitment strategies are important to ensure adequate recruitment of minority groups in research with greater gender consideration for women requiring specific attention.

Keywords: AIDS, clinical research, HIV, recruitment, women..