Factors Leading to Successful Tracking and Retention of Homeless and Unstably Housed HIV Positive Longitudinal Study Participants
Morton, J. E., Richa, N. R., Digregorio, M. A., & Bibb, B. S. (2008, May). Factors Leading to Successful Tracking and Retention of Homeless and Unstably Housed HIV Positive Longitudinal Study Participants. Presented at AAPOR 2008, New Orleans, LA.
The goal of the Housing and Health Study—conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and leading researchers—was to assess the role of housing in reducing HIV/AIDS transmission and disease progression. This longitudinal study had a distinct challenge of tracking and locating participants who were homeless or unstably housed and were also living with HIV/AIDS. The purpose of this paper is to report and critique the location strategies employed in this study. This paper will discuss various factors that contributed to high location/re-interview rates, review the retention rate differences across three follow-up waves and three study sites, and recommend a set of tracking strategies for future studies of this or other difficult-to-locate populations. The following reasons for successful retention are discussed in further detail: establishing relationships with local agencies and community-based organizations early, hiring diligent and dedicated field staff, maintaining ongoing visibility in the community, making participation a positive experience for study participants, creating a clear separation in perception of the “project” versus an "agency program," and using in-person contacts with participants between follow-up periods.