Tshwane Men’s study is a research project conducted by the HIV Center of New York State Psychiatric Institute,in collaboration with Columbia University and Human Sciences Research Council(HSRC), South Africa. The study is conducted to determine the prevalence of HIV amongst South African men who have sex with other menin correlation with their behavioral patterns. Further, this study will help inform the various measures that can be taken to prevent the spread of HIV.
The New York State Psychiatric Institute adopted Bayometric’s fingerprint recognition solution to overcome the challenge of an inefficient identification system.
For the purpose of this study, men who have sex with other men are the primary research participants. Selection of participants for the research is done by the snowball sampling method. Once selected, a participant is asked to provide references of 3 to 5 other men (recruits) for the study. For this, he is provided with a coupon, which is to be given to his recruits. When a recruit comes to the center for testing, the participant earns financial incentives.
Upon arrival at the test center, participants are asked questions about their sexual behavior and past experience with HIV testing. Having passed the screening test, they take an HIV test and have an option to receive the test results.
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As with any research-based study, it is important to ensure that the data collected – in this case the test results and behavioral data – is not duplicated. Further, since there are financial incentives attached to the study for the participants, an identification system is needed, which is able to track imposters and thereby ensure that incentives are given to eligible participants.
Most research projects provide a participant code,which is essentially an alphanumeric code, deduced from the participant’s personal information such as birthday and parts of the name.To maintain confidentiality and to prevent misuse, officials at the New York State Psychiatric Institute did not want to collect any personal information. Apart from being intrusive, alphanumeric codes can be easily forgotten.
Issuing identification cards to participants is another popular method used by various research centers. These cards need to be brought for every visit to the center and to collect incentives.Apart from the inconvenience of carrying the card, they can easily get lost, thereby increasing the likelihood of fraud.Not to mention the administrative cost and challenges in maintaining, updating and renewing them.
Hence, a proper identification system was necessary to secure a participant’s information, track incentives and ensure that a hassle free & cost effective system was in place.To increase the accuracy of the study, the identification system had to be relatively error-free.Further, as there were multiple test centers, it was essential that the system was centralized and uniform across all centers.
Bayometric’s fingerprint scanner and identification software proved to be the perfect solution to overcome all the above challenges. The system uses an FBI FIPS 201/PVI-certified fingerprint scanner along with fingerprint registration and matching software. The former scans the fingerprint of the participants, converts it into a binary code and stores it in the center’s computer database. This ensures that the process is secure and that no one can regenerate the fingerprint from the code. The fingerprint matching software matches a candidate’s fingerprint against the one in the database for identification.
Having enrolled, a participant is made to go through a screening test. Once he clears this test and consents to participate in the study, his fingerprint is scanned. Then, an ID number is generated, which is assigned to his fingerprint and other information provided in the survey. Further, referral coupons are also assigned to this ID number. This helps track his referrals and ensures incentives are being provided to the right participant.Further, when participants return to the test centers for various reasons, their records can be retrieved easily from the database by using the fingerprint recognition solution.
According to Kate Collier, the Research Project Manager, “Bayometric’steam of developers worked closely with us to customize the system exactly to our needs. Their system has been very user-friendly, extremely easy for our staff to learn and use.”
The Bayometric-based identification solution has a clear advantage over other identification methods. The relatively error-free identification process helps manage data better since information is stored in a central database and is easily retrievable“Using Bayometric’s system for our research study has improved our ability to manage participant enrollment and data collection” Kate Collier, Project Manager, New York State Psychiatric Institute.
The fingerprint identification solutional ensures that each candidate participates only once. Further, it identifies that referral incentives and test results are being given to the eligible participants only. In addition, by eliminating duplicity of tests taken by a participant, it helps improve correctness of the study. Being non-intrusive, it helps keep information about participants anonymous and secure.