McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

Stefanie Gopaul


Major and Classification

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Faculty Mentor

  • Jean Richardson, Ph.D.


  • Keck School of Medicine

McNair Project

HIV Vaccine Preparedness: A Qualitative Analysis of Motivations and Barriers for Invitation into Vaccine Studies in Order to facilitate Effective Use of the Social Network Model in HIV Vaccine Trial Recruitment

Recruiting participants that engage in high-risk behaviors is essential to both implementing HIV vaccine trials and assessing the effectiveness of potential vaccines. Although recruitment is successful for certain high-risk groups, other groups such as adolescents, remain highly underrepresented in vaccine trials due to difficulties in recruitment. Previous recruitment strategies, although successful, have significant limitations. Recent findings confirm use of the social network model as a feasible method to develop and recruit adolescents and adult women for vaccine trials. Subjects for this study were enrolled between October 2004 and June 2006. Initial participants (labeled as indexes) were patients recruited from the Maternal, Child, Adolescent/Adult Center for Infectious Diseases and Virology at the Los Angeles County + University of Southern California Medical Center (MCA). Later participants included the social network members (labeled first-degree alters) that were invited to join via the indexes. One hundred and twenty one indexes and alters participated in the study. Using data collected from open-ended questions, we identified altruistic motivations, a desire to share HIV/AIDS or vaccine knowledge, and other such factors that encouraged participants' willingness to invite network members to participate in an HIV vaccine trial. We also identified concerns regarding unanticipated side effects of a vaccine, receiving negative reactions from network members and other significant barriers that can deter willingness to invite network members. Because willingness to invite determines efficacy of the social network approach in trial recruitment, identifying motivational factors for encouragement can reveal more effective ways to utilize the social network model. Identifying and mitigating barriers that limit willingness to invite can also ensure effective use of the social network method.