Background: Community Engagement (CE) is imperative to research for both instrumental and ethical reasons. However, adolescents'' and young people''s (AYP) participation in research conducted in Africa is infrequent. It is poorly understood how to meaningfully involve AYP in research, promoting critical dialogue between researchers and AYP. HPTN 071 (PopART) is a community based trial in 21 study communities in Zambia and South Africa. The trial includes a nested ancillary study (2016-2017) to evaluate AYP''s (15-24 years) uptake of HIV-related services.
Methods: Formative research was conducted to identify AYP-specific community stakeholders and AYP possible interventions in consultation with AYP representatives and the existing adult Community Advisory Boards (CABs). Consultations resulted in the creation of 12 AYP-only CABs (aCABs) in Zambia and one AYP-only CAB in South Africa. These CABs met monthly. We report on data collected through group discussions (n=8) and in-depth interviews (n=63) conducted among aCAB members in Zambia in 2017 exploring their perceptions of the aCAB''s role in the study. We also reflect on our experiences of establishing and maintaining AYP participation and representation processes from the onset to preliminary results dissemination.
Results: AYPs were enthusiastic to serve as representatives. However, their participation was constrained by high mobility and the requirement for parental/guardian permission to attend meetings. They requested for formation of AYP-only CABs and not just the inclusion of AYP representatives in adult CABs. Some AYP intervention strategies were both suggested and implemented by them. AYP CABs sought to protect the privacy and confidentiality of AYP research participants and respect their autonomy. For example, they recommended waiver of parental consent for 15-17-year-olds in a survey and rejected the offer of incentives to research participants. AYP leadership, involvement in decision making and determination of specific study activities represented a significant achievement especially in the context of research in Africa where AYP voices are rarely considered.
Conclusions: AYP in Africa are capable of participating meaningfully in research that directly impacts their lives. While challenges to participation in research exist, researchers should be encouraged to invest in meaningful partnerships with AYPs. CABs with only AYP representatives are one such strategy.

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