Lessons learned from the cellulose sulfate trial about emergency trial closures

What worked

  • Negotiating with the SEC directly for a 24-hour delay in release of the sponsor’s press release on the business wire.
  • Opting against holding a press conference, and instead contacting a few trusted health journalists respected for writing balanced and accurate stories.
  • Intensely monitoring the media and correcting inaccuracies.
  • Collaborating with the wider field through the Microbicides Media and Communication Initiative—a field-wide collaborative effort to coordinate communication issues across prevention trials.
  • Coordinating the press releases of the research groups and the product developer.

Lessons learned

  • Contextualize the situation. Use local HIV prevalence and incidence estimates among people both within and outside of the trial to paint a picture of the trial communities and countries.
  • Specify the numbers of individuals affected (such as the number of women who became infected during the trial) in statements.
  • Coordinate closely with all trial sites in the area and ensure they have communications support on the ground.
  • Mind the time zones. Schedule strategy and urgent response calls at times amenable to in-country staff and those most in need of support.


October 3rd, 2013