Design, analysis, and reporting of pilot studies in HIV: A systematic review and methodological study


BACKGROUND: Pilot studies are essential in determining if a larger study is feasible. This is especially true when targeting populations that experience stigma and may be difficult to include in research, such as people with HIV. We sought to describe how pilot studies have been used to inform HIV clinical trials. METHODS: We conducted a methodological study of pilot studies of interventions in people living with HIV published until November 25, 2020, using Medline, Embase, and Cochrane Controlled Register of Trials (CENTRAL). We extracted data on their nomenclature, primary objective, use of progression criteria, sample size, use of qualitative methods, and other contextual information (region, income, level, type of intervention, study design). RESULTS: Our search retrieved 10,597 studies, of which 248 were eligible. The number of pilot studies increased steadily over time. We found that 179 studies (72.2%) used the terms “pilot” or “feasibility” in their title, 65.3% tested feasibility as a primary objective, only 2% used progression criteria, 23.9% provided a sample size estimation and only 30.2% used qualitative methods. CONCLUSIONS: Pilot studies are increasingly being used to inform HIV research. However, the titles and objectives are not always consistent with piloting. The design and reporting of pilot studies in HIV could be improved.


El-Khechen HA, Khan MIU, Leenus S, Olaiya O, Durrani Z, Masood Z, Leenus A, Akhter S, Mbuagbaw L




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Health Systems
    • Governance arrangements
    • Delivery arrangements


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