I feel that i should decide on my own': Who should be involved in the decision-making process for adolescent involvement in HIV research?

Ferdinand C. Mukumbang*, Kristen Beima-Sofie, Jillian Neary, Huangqianyu Li, Kawango Agot, Elise Healy, Kate S. Wilson, Jacinta Badia, James Kibugi, Irene Inwani, Nok Chhun, Grace John-Stewart, Pamela Kohler, Seema K. Shah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction Efforts to improve health outcomes among adolescents and young adults living with HIV (ALHs) are hampered by limited adolescent engagement in HIV-related research. We sought to understand the views of adolescents, caregivers and healthcare workers (HCWs) about who should make decisions regarding ALHs' research participation. Methods We conducted focus group discussions (FGDs) and in-depth interviews (IDIs) with ALHs (aged 14-24 years), caregivers of ALHs and HCWs from six HIV care clinics in Western Kenya. We used semi-structured guides to explore ALHs' involvement in research decisions. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis; perspectives were triangulated between groups. Results We conducted 24 FGDs and 44 IDIs: 12 FGDs with ALHs, 12 with caregivers, and 44 IDIs with HCWs, involving 216 participants. HCWs often suggested that HIV research decision-making should involve caregivers and ALHs deciding together. In contrast, ALHs and parents generally thought decisions should be made individually, whether by HCWs/research teams (although this is likely ethically problematic), adolescents or caregivers. Caregiver and ALH preferences depended on ALHs' age, with younger ALHs requiring more support. A few caregivers felt that ALHs should consult with the research team/HCWs due to their greater knowledge of clinical care. ALHs emphasised that they should independently decide because they thought they had the right to do so and the capacity to consent. Poor communication and parental non-disclosure of HIV status influenced ALHs' views to exclude caregivers from decision-making. Regarding influences on research decision-making, ALHs were more willing to participate based on perceived contribution to science and less interested in participating in studies with potential risks, including loss of confidentiality. Discussion While research teams and HCWs felt that adolescents and caregivers should jointly make research decisions, ALHs and caregivers generally felt individuals should make decisions. As ALHs sometimes find caregiver support lacking, improving family dynamics might enhance research engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere012966
JournalBMJ Global Health
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 14 2023


  • HIV
  • health services research
  • qualitative study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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