ALPHA: Harmonisation and sharing of linked HIV cohort data from communities and clinics in Africa


  • Prof Matthias Egger

    Universit├Ąt Bern, Switzerland

  • Prof Basia Zaba

    London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom

  • Dr Abraham Herbst

    Africa Health Research Institute, South Africa

  • Dr Emma Slaymaker

    London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom

Project summary

Two kinds of studies currently provide detailed, continuous information on persons living with HIV: (i) clinical cohorts that follow patients who have started treatment, recording test results, medication, diagnostic assessments and treatment adherence; and (ii) community cohorts that follow (and re-test) all uninfected and infected people in the community, recording residence patterns, formation and dissolution of partnerships, sexual behaviour, family building, use of modern and traditional health services, mortality, education and economic activity changes. Clinical studies cannot provide any information on new infection rates, and on those who die without accessing treatment services; they lose track of those who stop attending, and are poor at assessing risk factors that pre-date clinic contact. Community-based studies are expensive and are poor at recording treatment and disease progression. This project will ensure that each community-based cohort study in Africa is linked to a clinic study in the same geographical area so that data from the two sources can be jointly analysed by linking the individual records from each source. Furthermore, it will provide proven data harmonisation technology to the studies to facilitate the rapid conversion of their raw data to formats that can be analysed easily and shared with other researchers.