We utilized multiple recruitment approaches to recruit IDUs in a longitudinal cohort study to examine HIV incidence and behavior change pre- and post-introduction of comprehensive HIV prevention services.
IDUs were recruited through peer referral, targeted outreach by outreach workers (ORWs) and as walk-in clients at drop-in centers. Participants received monetary compensation for participation (USD 0.80). Participants were given recruitment coupons to recruit peers (regardless of recruitment method). For peer referral, participants received a food coupon, as secondary compensation, for each peer he/she successfully recruited. We report the profile of IDUs by recruitment method, based on the baseline behavioral survey and HIV test results. Cost per IDU recruited by recruitment method was also calculated.
A total of 3,818 IDUs were recruited between May 2011 and October 2011. More than half of the study participants were recruited through targeted outreach (ORW: 53.6%; peer-referral: 26.3%; walk-ins: 20.1%). Of the participants who were given recruitment coupons, 92.7% recruited no peers. Those who successfully recruited at least one peer were significantly more likely to be in a stable living accommodation compared to those who did not recruit any peers (51.1% versus 42.7%; p < 0.05). Only 45.9% of the food coupons were claimed for successful recruitment of peers. Peer-referred IDUs were more likely to be living with family or relatives (50.7% versus ORW: 40.1% and walk-in: 39.8%; p < 0.001) rather than on the street or shared housings compared to the other two recruitment modes. Walk-ins were more likely than peer-referred and ORW-referred IDUs to be HIV-positive (walk-ins: 26.1%; peer-referred: 19.1%; ORW: 19.9%; p < 0.01) and have risky injection practices (walk-ins: 62.2%; ORW: 57.0%; peer-referred: 58.6%; p < 0.05). The cost per IDU recruited through ORW referral method was the most costly at USD 16.30, followed by peer-referral at USD 8.40 and walk-in at USD 7.50.
When recruiting a large number of IDUs, using multiple recruitment modes is ideal with regard to diversification of IDU characteristics and risk profile. Although it was the most costly, ORW recruitment was more effective than the other two methods. Lack of monetary compensation for successful recruitment of peers may have hampered peer-referral.