Community-based HIV/AIDS research - whither community participation? Unsolved problems in a research programme in rural Uganda
Involvement of the study community in research on HIV/AIDS has presented the MRC/UVRI programme in rural Uganda with a multi-layered challenge. A typology developed in agricultural research which defines different levels of community participation in research is described where participation may be at 'contract', 'consultative', 'collaborative' and 'collegiate' level (each level indicating an increasing degree of community participation). Community involvement in the MRC/UVRI Programme is then outlined and the typology applied. It is shown that the majority of community participation in the Programme is at the contract level since the nature of the research programme as a 'foreign imposition' with 'foreign goals' has precluded the involvement of the community in much of the policy development and research planning. However, it is noted that as the Programme becomes more established in the area community influence grows and signs of community impact on policy and increased research inputs are beginning to be seen. The question is raised as to whether it is realistic to expect that externally imposed health research, particularly on sensitive topics, can ever be truly community participatory research.