Assessing the efficacy of an integrated intervention to create demand for fishermen’s schistosomiasis and HIV services (FISH) in Mangochi, Malawi: Study protocol for a cluster randomized control trial

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Journal Article

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Background Both HIV and schistosomiasis are major public health problems worldwide with 1.8 million new HIV infections, and up to 110 million untreated schistosomiasis cases globally. Although a causal link has not been established, there are strong suggestions that having schistosomiasis increases onward transmission of HIV from co-infected men to women. With both HIV and schistosomiasis treatment readily available in Malawi, there is a need to investigate the feasibility, acceptability and health impacts of joint management of these two hazards, with special focus on health education and demand-creation for fishermen. The aim of this project is to identify optimal models of delivering integrated HIV and schistosomiasis services for fishermen, particularly investigating the effect of using social networks, HIV self-test kits and beach clinic services in Mangochi, Malawi. Methods We have mapped 45 boat teams or landing sites for a 3-arm cluster randomized trial using “boat team” as the unit of randomization. The three arms are: 1) Standard of care (SOC) with leaflets explaining the importance of receiving presumptive treatment for schistosomiasis (praziquantel) and HIV services for fishermen, and two intervention arms of 2) SOC + a peer explaining the leaflet to his fellow fishermen in a boat team; and 3) arm 2 with HIV self-test kits delivered to the boat team fishermen by the peer. The primary outcomes measured at 9 months of trial delivery will compare differences between arms in the proportions of boat-team fishermen: 1) who self-report starting antiretroviral therapy or undergoing voluntary medical male circumcision; and 2) who have 1 S. haematobium egg seen on light microscopy of the filtrate from 10mls urine (“egg-positive”). Discussion This is the first evaluation of an integrated HIV and schistosomiasis services intervention for fishermen, particularly investigating the effect of using social networks, HIVST kits and beach clinic services. The findings will support future efforts to integrate HIVST with other health services for fishermen in similar settings if found to be efficacious. Trial registration This trial is registered in the ISRCTN registry: ISRCTN14354324; date of registration: 05 October 2020. https://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN14354324?q=ISRCTN14354324&filters= &sort=&offset=1&totalResults=1&page=1&pageSize=10&searchType=basic-search. Linked to protocol version number 1.4 of 11 January 2021.